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Full text of "Folly to the Ḥunafāʼ : the cross of Christ in Arabic Christian-Muslim controversy in the eighth and ninth centuries A.D."

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Pontificio Istituto 
di Studi Arabi e d'Islamistica 


The Cross of Christ 
in Arabic Christian-Muslim Controversy 
in the Eighth and Ninth Centuries A.D. 

Submitted to the Faculty of the PISAI 

For the Degree 
Doctor of Arabic and Islamic Studies 


Mark Nathanael Swanson 


(reformatted, with corrections, 1995) 


Preface (11) 

Abbreviations (18) 

Bibliography: Published Sources (21) 

Bibliography: Unpublished Sources (62) 

Chapter One: THE SOURCES 1-64 

Introduction and Orientation 1 

I. Christian Texts 2 

A. The Earliest Witnesses: Arabic Christian Apologetics 

in the Eighth Century 2 

L "On the Triune God" (Fl tatllt Allah al-wahid) 4 
2. The Dialogue of the Catholicos Timothy I 

and the Caliph al-Mahdl 6 

B. Three Christian Mutakallims of the Early Ninth Century 9 

1. Theodore Abu Qurrah 9 

2. Habib b. Hidmah Abu Ra'itah 14 

3. 'Ammar al-Basri 16 

C. Apocalyptic, Polemic, and Controversy 

in the Age of al-Ma'mun (813-33) 19 

1. "The Wisdom of Sibyl (Sabila)" 20 

2. "The Apocalypse/Legend of Bahira 22 

3. "The Letter of al-Kindi" 25 

4. The Dialogue of Ibrahim al-TabaranT 26 

5. The Dialogue of Abu Qurrah and Muslim Scholars 

before the Caliph al-Ma'mun 28 



D. An Overlooked Apology: "The Book of Eustathius" (Kitdb Ustdt) 31 

E. Two Theological Compilations of the Later Ninth Century 34 
L "The Compilation of the Aspects of the Faith" 

(al-Gdmi' wuguh al-iman) 34 

2. Peter of Bayt Ra's: "The Demonstration" (al-Burhdn) 37 

F. Additional Texts of Uncertain Age 39 
L "Questions and Rational and Divine Responses" 

(Masd'il wa-agwibah 'aqliyyah wa-ilahiyyah) 39 

2. "The Belief of the Orthodox Christians" 40 

3. "On the Sufferings of Our Lord Christ" 41 

4. 'The Letter of Leo" Preserved in Latin 42 

5. "The Refutation of the One Who Denies the Crucifixion" 

(al-Radd 'aid man gahad al-salb) 45 

II. Islamic Texts 47 

A. The Sources 47 

1. Early Qur'an Interpretation: the Tafslr al-Tabari 47 

2. The Hadith 48 

B. The Earliest Refutations of the Christians 50 

1. Abu 'Utman 'Amr b. Bahr al-Gahiz 50 

2. al-Qasim b. Ibrahim: 'The Book of the Refutation 

of the Christians" (Kitdb al-radd 'aid l-Nasdrd) 52 

3. 'All b. Rabban al-Tabari 53 

4. "The Letter of 'Umar" 57 

C. Two Sophisticated Mu'tazilite Refutations 59 

1. Abu 'Isa Muhammad b. Harun al-Warraq: 

"The Book of the Refutation of the Three Sects of Christians" 

(Kitdb al-radd 'aid l-firaq al-talat min al-Nasdrd) 60 

2. al-Nasi' al-Akbar: 'The Middle Book" (Kitdb al-awsat) 62 

D. Besting the Byzantines: The Story of Wasil 63 



Introduction: Islam's Antipathy to the Cross 65 

1. The beginning and the end: two hadith reports 65 

2. In between: the historical record 66 

3. Explanations 69 

A. "The Cross Has Conquered" 70 

1. Introduction 70 

2. The victorious cross and the Romans/Byzantines 71 

(a) Before the advent of Islam 71 

(b) After the advent of Islam 73 

(c) A numismatic battle of symbols 76 

3. The victorious cross and Christians in the Dar al-lslam 78 

(a) The cross on the dinar 78 

(b) The cross in apocalyptic imagination 80 

(c) The cross and the Abbasid revolt 81 

(d) The cross and the Byzantine revival 82 

4. A concluding comment 84 

B. "Fuel for the Flames of Hell" 85 
L Introduction 85 

2. Muslim charges of idolatrous cross worship 86 

3. Christian responses 87 

(a) In seventh-century polemics with the Jews 87 

(b) In controversy with the Muslims 89 

4. A concluding comment 93 

C. "You Shall Not Announce Your sirkf 93 


Introduction 97 

L al-Nisa' (4):157 and its Earliest Interpretation 98 

A. Does al-Nisa' (4):157 Deny the Death of Jesus on the Cross? 99 

L Problems of interpretation 99 

2. Two western Christian assessments 99 

(a) Raisanen: al-Nisa' (4):157 denies Christ's death by crucifixion 100 


(b) Jourdan: al-Nisa (4):157 does not deny Christ's death by crucifixion 100 

3. An anticipated conclusion 102 

B. The Earliest Commentary on al-Nisa' (4):157 102 
L A trajectory of interpretation 103 

2. The interpretation of Wahb 104 

3. The development of substitutionist exegesis 107 

(a) A gradual process 107 

(b) A Kufan connection? 108 

(c) Massignon on the "docetic" interpretation of al-Nisa' (4): 157 108 

(d) Gathering up the threads 110 

C. The Earliest Christian Evidence 110 
L 'The Vision of Shenute" 111 
2. John of Damascus: "Concerning Heresies," Ch. 100/101 112 

D. A Summary 113 

II. Arabic Christian Defences of the Historicity of the Crucifixion 114 

Introduction 114 

A. Al 'Imran (3):55 and the Qur'anic Sequence 

Death - Resurrection - Ascension 115 

L Timothy's debate, I 115 

2. Al 'Imran (3):55 between Christian apology and 

Islamic commentary 116 

3. A summary 118 

B. The Witness of the Christian Scriptures 119 
L Timothy's debate, II 119 

2. The adversus Judaios tradition and the 

availability of Old Testament testimonia 120 

3. The Old Testament testimonia, the Muslims, and the crucifixion 122 

(a) Muslim-directed apologetics and the testimonia catalogues 122 

(b) Muslim-directed apologetics and the prophecies of the crucifixion 123 

(c) Caution in the use of the Old Testament 125 

(d) Excursus I: Is Christ cursed? On Deuteronomy 21:23 128 

(e) Excursus 11: The testimonies of the pagan sages 129 


4. Arguments from the New Testament and Christian tradition 130 

(a) The witness of the apostles 130 

(b) The concurrence of the Jews 131 

(c) The witness of place 132 

(d) The True Cross 132 

(e) Comments 133 

(f) Excursus: Three days and three nights? 134 

5. A summary 136 

C. The Issue of tasbih 137 

1. Timothy's debate, III 137 

2. "The Refutation of the One Who Denies the Crucifixion" 138 

3. A concluding comment 139 

D. Final Questions about al-Nisa' (4):157 140 

1. Timothy's debate, IV: completed argument, unanswered questions 140 

2. Contradicting al-Nisa' (4):157 141 

3. Reinterpreting al-Nisa' (4):157 142 

(a) The humanity, not the divinity, was killed 142 

(b) Intentions and actual results; Al 'Imran (3): 169 144 

4. A Concluding Comment 145 
III. Christ Was Too Honored before God to Undergo Crucifixion! 145 


Introduction 151 

I. Redemption as Christ's Victory over Satan 152 

A. Christ's Defeat of Satan in the Arabic Christian Apologies 152 

1. "On the Triune God": Satan's ascendancy and overthrow 152 

2. "On the Triune God," the tradition, and Arabic apologetics 157 

(a) The role of Satan 157 

(b) The deception of Satan 158 

(c) What does the crucifixion accomplish, and how? 160 

(d) A careful summary by a Muslim 163 

3. Concluding comments 167 


B. The Islamic Critique of the Christian Story: 

Satan's Power, Christ's Defeat 168 
L The background: were God's apostles and prophets 

among Satan's captives? 168 

2. The turning point: who was defeated? 170 

3. The outcome: is redemption verifiable? 173 

4. Consequences 174 

II. Redemption as Certainty in the General Resurrection 176 

A. The "Divine Demonstration" Apology: Introduction 176 
L Christ "showed forth the resurrection" 176 

2. The apologetic "point of contact" 179 

3. Responses to questions 180 

(a) How is the demonstration salvific? 180 

(b) Why was the preaching of the resurrection insufficient? 182 

(c) Why were Christ's life-giving miracles insufficient? 182 

B. The "Divine Demonstration" Apology: Ramifications 183 
L Christ's necessarily public, verifiable death 183 

(a) In the Kitab al-masa'il wa-l-agwibah of 'Ammar al-Basrl 183 

(b) In al-Gami' wuguh al-Iman 185 

(c) Comments 188 

2. Probing further 188 

III. Excursus: The Crucified and His Crucifiers 191 

A. Introduction 191 

1. Christ's freedom 191 

2. The guilt of the Jews 194 

3. Both/and? 196 

B. The Crucified: Willing? His Crucifiers: Guilty? 197 

1. The dilemma and the Muslim controversialists 197 

2. The dilemma and the Christian controversialists 201 

(a) Counter-questions 201 

(b) De-horning the dilemma grammatically 208 

(c) What of the agony in Gethsemane, or the cry of dereliction? 210 


IV. Redemption from the Curse of the Law 211 

A. "On the Necessity of Redemption": The Argument 211 

B. "On the Necessity of Redemption" in the History of Doctrine 218 
L Abu Qurrah: a precursor of Anselm? 218 

2. Another comparison 219 

3. Abu Qurrah between Athanasius and Anselm 222 

V. Discussion in Conclusion and Anticipation 223 

(a) The various stories: complementarity or confusion? 223 

(b) The inevitable reality of the crucifixion 226 

(c) The identity of the one who was crucified 226 


AND MY GOD" 229-287 

I. ". . . God . . . died": Paradox or Blasphemy? 229 

A. The "Paradox Christology": 

From the New Testament to Nicaea 229 

B. Later Christological Developments: 

From Nicaea to the Ddr al-lsldm 232 

C. "Melkites," "Jacobites," and "Nestorians" 234 

D. Blasphemous Nonsense! 238 

II. Christian Explanations, Muslim Refutations 246 

A. Christian Attempts to Explain 246 

1. Nestorians 247 

2. Melkites 249 

3. Jacobites 251 

B. Muslim Refutations 253 

1. The refutation of Abu 'Isa al-Warraq 254 

(a) Exploring Christian distinctions, exploiting Christian quarrels 254 

(b) Basic issues 255 

2. The refutation of al-Nasi' al-Akbar 257 


III. Christian Assertion and Self-Definition 260 

A. Asserting the Mystery 261 
L In "The Book of Eustathius" (Kitab Ustat) 261 
2. In al-Gami' wugiih al-lman 265 

B. Accomodation and Differentiation 266 

1. Pressures to conform 266 

2. Drawing the boundaries 270 

(a) Abu Rait ah on the interpolated Trisagion hymn 271 

(b) Abu Qurrah on the icons of Christ crucified 274 

C. Scandal Transformed into Proof 277 

1. On the true religion 277 

2. On the true scripture 283 

IV. Conclusion 286 


1. Some observations by a Christian 289 

2. "We have no sign except the cross!" 292 


Appendix I: The "Passion Narrative" of Wahb b. Munabbih 295 

Appendix II: 'The Refutation of the One Who Denies 

the Crucifixion," Critical Edition 297 


The Crucified: willing? His crucifiers: guilty? 

The Christian apologists' counter-questions and counter-examples 



Title and theme 

One of the oldest known Arabic versions of the letters of St. Paul is found in a 
manuscript of the ninth century preserved in the library of St. Catherine's Monastery 
at Mount Sinai. In this manuscript, catalogued as Arabic MS 155 and published nearly 
a century ago by Margaret Dunlop Gibson, we find the following translation of 
1 Corinthians 1:22-25^" 

tuLl j^JLiaL; a_n-JI 0^ 22 

i ^-*!>Uj tlLii j_h-JL! ill 

*Lii>Jl * yjj^ Cr* o^^**-*-" 24 
.-ill 40)1 5y — Jl 

i ,j*UI *^»-t ^1 J-**- o^/ 25 


22 Because the Jews demand signs, 

and the hunafa seek wisdom. 

23 As for us, we proclaim Christ, the crucified, 

for the Jews a thing of doubt, and for the nations folly; 

24 but for those who are chosen from among the Jews and from the hunafa 

Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. 

25 Because the folly of God is wiser than the people, 

and the weakness of God is stronger than the people. 

The word left untranslated, hunafa' (singular hanif), comes from the Syriac hanpe, 
meaning "pagans," "Gentiles," or "Greeks." According to St. Paul in his early Arabic 
dress, the generality of the hunafa' found the "word of the cross" (1 Cor. 1:18) to be 
"folly" (humq), the precise opposite of the wisdom Qiikmah) for which they were 

L Copied without correction from GIBSON, Epistles (1894), 39V8-13. 



Curiously, the loan-word haniflhunafa' is not only to be found in the Arabic 
writings of Christians of Syriac cultural background, but occurs several times in the 
Arabic sacred scripture of the Muslims, the Qur'an. There it has a distinctive 
meaning, referring not to the polytheistic pagans but rather to those with a 
monotheistic faith like that of Abraham, whom the Qur'an describes with the words: 

j .* «J1 ja jlS' L. j c ULw» ta.;>- jlS* jiLl t Ljl^-^aJ Li ~Jkl ^1 jlS' I* ("No; 

Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a hanif and a 
Muslim; certainly he was never of the idolaters"). (2) In Islamic usage hanif very 
quickly came to be a synonym of Muslim, and al-hanifiyyah a synonym of IslamS^ 

Christians who had come to live under Islamic rule as a result of the conquests 
of the seventh century quickly discovered that the New Testament "word of the cross" 
had not only been folly to the (Gentile) hunafa' of whom St. Paul had spoken, but 
was also folly to the latter-day (Muslim) hunafa' w In its broadest outlines, the present 
study is an attempt to understand why "the word of the cross" struck the new 
hunafa' as folly, and to examine the ways in which Arabic-speaking Christians 
attempted to speak that word in the apologetic environment that the assumption and 
accusation of folly had come to characterize. 

Subtitle and definition 

Further definition of the present study is given in its subtitle, "The Cross of 
Christ in Arabic Christian-Muslim Controversy in the Eighth and Ninth Centuries A.D." 

By "the cross of Christ" I intend the whole complex of beliefs, interpretations, 
and practices arising from the (alleged!) death of Jesus Christ by crucifixion, including 
Christian use of and devotion to the symbol of the cross. Obviously, concern for this 
topic is distinctively Christian, and it will be obvious to every reader that the author 
of this study is a committed Christian interested in exploring a rather neglected 
chapter in the history of Christian thought. At the same time however, as a study of 
Christian! Muslim controversy this work will take the writings of Christians 
and Muslims into account, in the belief that the arguments of Christians were 
influenced by those of Muslims and vice versa, and that to a certain degree it is 
possible to trace the development of their early controversy over "the word of the 
cross," thereby gaining some insight into the dynamics of the early encounter of 
Christian and Islamic systems of belief. This is intended as a contribution in a field 
where most published monographs deal nearly exclusively with Christian or Islamic 

2. Al 'Imran (3):67. The English rendering is adapted from that of ARBERRY, Koran (1964), 55. 
Quranic parallels and secondary literature are given in PARET, Kommentar (1981), 32-33 (under 
al-Baqarah (2):135). 

3. See GRIFFITH, "Prophet" (1983), 118-121. 

4. In the (Syriac) apologetic treatise of Nonnus of Nisibis the Muslims are called \jk G\ 9 

| 9 « ^- ("the hanpe of today") or \ <=b i ■■ ||_ ^» ("the new hanpe"). VAN ROEY, 
Nonnus (1948), 9*/26 and 12*/9. 


data, but not both. For example, Rachid Haddad's ground-breaking dissertation La 
Trinite divine chez les theologiens arabes (750-I050p) allots very little space to the 
Islamic speculation that the arabophone trinitarians attempted to exploit in their 
apologies/ 6 ) while the best study of the Islamic "refutation of the Christians" genre, 
Abdelmajid Charfi's al-Fikr al-lslami fi l-radd 'aid al-Nasara ild nihdyat al-qarn 
al-rdbi'lal-'dsir ("Islamic thought concerning the refutation of the Christians until the 
end of the fourth/tenth century")* 7 ' does not deal with the Arabic Christian literature 
produced contemporaneously with the Islamic material he surveys. 

Obviously, the study of early Christian-Muslim conversation and controversy 
will be the study of Arabic literature, since it was the Arabic language that, from 
about the eighth century on, provided Christians and Muslims with a common 
medium of religious discourse. While I shall make some use of Greek and Syriac 
Christian works, these will be for the most part reports on or reflections upon Arabic 
conversations between Christians and Muslims. 

I begin my study in the eighth century A.D. since it was only then that the 
extent of the adoption of Arabic by Christian populations in parts of the Islamic 
caliphate was such as to enable and demand the production of church books and 
apologetic works in that language; in fact, we have no documentary proof for the 
existence of any Arabic Christian religious text before the year 772.< 8 ' With regard to 
the decision to close the period of study at the end of the ninth century, I must admit 
that I find no sharp line of demarcation at the precise year 900 A.D., and that it is 
not at all impossible that I have "trespassed" on the tenth century by making use of 
certain undated texts. However, the decision to bring the study to an end in 
circa 900 (with some emphasis on the "circa") is not entirely arbitrary. In the first 
place, I have constantly been aware of the necessity of keeping the period of study 
short enough to allow for a thorough survey of sources in the space of a single 
dissertation. A criticism that may be made of many previous studies in the fields of 
Arabic Christian apologetics and of the Islamic "refutation of the Christians" literature 
is that they have dealt with periods far too long to allow for thoroughness. This is 
the case, for example, in the work most closely related to the present study: Francois 
Jourdan's dissertation, "La mort du Messie en croix dans les eglises arameennes et sa 
relation a l'lslam jusqu'a l'arrivee des Mongols en 1258."< 9 ' While Jourdan's work is 
very helpful in its study of Christian pre-Islamic material/ 10 ' he is only able to devote 
a single chapter to Christian-Muslim apologetic and polemical literature concerning the 
cross/ 11 ' and that with a time frame embracing five entire centuries and parts of two 

5. HADDAD, Trinite (1985). 

6. For a splendid example of the analysis which is possible with respect to Arabic Christian 
trinitarian apologetics, see GRIFFITH, "Concept" (1982). 

7. CHARFI, Radd (1986). 

8. See below, pp. 2-3. 

9. JOURDAN, "Mort" (1988). 

10. This occupies four chapters of his dissertation, 258 of 416 pages of text. 


more. Clearly, this does not allow for much more than a sampling of texts. While it 
is no doubt too much to claim exhaustiveness for the present study, it has all along 
been my aim to produce a reasonably thorough survey of the relevant and accessible 
Arabic literature from the period delineated. 

In the second place, the decades immediately preceding and following the year 
900 A.D. are clearly a period when certain chapters in the history of Christian-Muslim 
controversy were coming to an end and new ones beginning. Three such endings 
and/or beginnings might be mentioned: 

(a) As we shall see/ 12 ' the Byzantine revival of the late ninth and tenth centuries 
had an effect upon Arabic Christian apologetic and polemical literature, in particular 
by enabling the reappearance of a military interpretation of the power of the cross. 
While the change in the Byzantines' military fortunes occurred gradually and 
unevenly, two datable events invoked by an early tenth-century Byzantine polemical 
text are Andronicus' slaughter of 18,000 Muslims in 904 and the great naval victory of 
Himerios in 908/ 13 ) The present work, however, seeks to describe a kind of Christian 
apologetic that could not and did not seek resolution of the paradoxes of 1 Corinthians 
1:22-25 in news from the battlefield. 

(b) It will be argued below that the intent of the Qur'anic verse al-Nisa' (4):157 is 
to deny that Jesus died the death of crucifixion, and that Muslims so understood it 
from as far back as we can trace throughout the eighth and ninth Christian 
centuries/ 14 ' However, in the tenth century we begin to find alternative 
understandings of the verse appearing in certain corners of the Islamic world. A date 
that may be mentioned is 922 A.D., when al-Hallag recited al-Nisa' (4):157 as an 
interpretation of his own (very real) crucifixion/ 15 ) 

(c) The tenth century is a time of new beginnings in the history of Arabic 
Christian literature in general. In Baghdad, Yahya b. 'AdI (893-974) forged an entirely 
new sort of Arabic Christian apologetic drawing on the Plotinus-tinted Aristotelianism 
of the philosophical school of that city/ 16 ) In Egypt, Sawirus b. al-Muqaffa' 
(d. ca. 1000) stands at the origins of an Arabic Coptic literature that would come to 
brilliant flower in the thirteenth century. With the earliest apologetic productions of 
Yahya and Sawirus (from about the year 940), concurrently-running new chapters in 
the history of Arabic Christian apologetics are definitely under way. 

lL Chapter 6, pp. 317-77. 

12. Below, pp. 82-84. 

13. See the "Letter of Arethas to the Emir at Damascus," KARLIN-HAYTER, "Letter" (1959-60), 
300/25-30 [FT ABEL, "Lettre" (1954), 3681. 

14. See below, pp. 97-114. 

15. See below, p. 109, note 76. For tenth-century Isma'ill understandings of al-Nisa (4):157, see below, 
p. 144. 

16. On Yahya, see especially SAMIR, Tawhld (1980) and PLATTI, Yahya ibn 'Adl (1983). 



Chapter One provides an overview of the sources used in this study, and 
should be regarded and used as a work of reference. The story of controversy that I 
try to relate begins in Chapter Two, which examines the evidence and reasons for the 
Muslims' antipathy toward the symbol of the cross. The heart of the study is the 
three linked chapters that follow: "The Crucifixion of Jesus/isa b. Maryam," "The 
Crucifixion of the Redeemer," and "The Crucifixion of 'My Lord and My God.'" The 
first of these (Chapter Three) focusses on the problem of the historicity of the 
crucifixion of Christ, between Islamic denial and Christian assertion. Chapter Four 
goes on to explore various attempts by arabophone Christians to give an apologetic, 
Muslim-directed soteriological shaping to the story of Jesus, including his crucifixion, 
and the controversy that these attempts aroused. In Chapter Five the theme is the 
Christian confession of the death of the one confessed as Lord and God, a confession 
that elicited Muslims' incredulity and provoked their very sharp polemics, to which 
Christians reacted sometimes with attempts to explain (and explain away?) the 
paradoxes of faith in the Crucified, and sometimes with a determined assertion of 
these paradoxes enabled in part by apologetic strategies of great ingenuity. A 
Conclusion then offers a brief assessment of the controversy. 

Texts and translations 

This study contains a good number of brief Arabic texts, for the most part 
freshly edited and provided with English translations. I have tried to refrain from 
treating these texts with a heavy editorial hand, and consider my primary contribution 
to their understanding the addition of punctuation and some taskll. To facilitate 
reading I have frequently divided the texts into thought units and spread them out in 
a kind of outline form across the page; hopefully readers will find this helpful rather 
than distracting. In the case of texts of about a page's length or more I have 
numbered the units for ease of reference and of comparison with the translation. 

Where there are choices to be made between variant readings, or where there 
are corrections to be made in the text as found in the manuscript(s) or printed edition, 
the correct reading is given in the body of the text, with the variants or uncorrected 
form given in a note. Accomodations to classical orthography that do not involve a 
change in consonental skeleton, in particular the addition of independent hamzah or 
the substitution of ts f° r <S or J f° r J-> nave been made without note. As a further 
measure to keep texts and critical apparatus as uncluttered as possible, the following 
set of superscript symbols have been used to indicate very common orthographical 

a : i5 is found in the manuscript/edition where I is required, or vice 

n : there is a mistake in indicating tanwln, t being written where not 
allowed or omitted where required. 


° : final alif (the alif otiosum, e.g. I in the ending I j) is improperly 

omitted or added. 
1 : 3 is incorrectly written for o or <L>, or O for 3. 

Thus \$JUh and l d in one of my edited texts means that the words are written 
Ijla and 3 y£ respectively in the manuscript or printed edition. 
I have allowed either dJb or <di or etc. 


Apart from Arabic block quotations and verses from the Qur'an, I have 
transliterated Arabic and Syriac words in the body of the text so that it not appear 
intimidating to readers unfamiliar with these languages. The systems of transliteration 
used are perfectly conventional and should cause no difficulty, although the following 
points might be noted: 

For Arabic, £ = g, £ = h, j* = s, p- = g. The diphthongs are ay and aw. Final 
L is tranliterated ah (or at in the status constructus), and the nisbah ending 2L_ (e.g.) 
is transliterated iyyah. The article is always written al- (or /- after a vowel). 

For Syriac, vowels written with a weak, letter are transliterated with a 
circumflex (a, e, i, u) with the exception of , transliterated ei. Zqapa ( ) without 
following alap is transliterated a. I have not differentiated in the transliteration 
between the hard and soft forms of the bgadkpat letters, nor have I indicated the 
indistinct vowel; thus would be transliterated simply dahba (rather than, for 

example, daheba or dahebha). 

Miscellaneous notes 

I believe that it was Michael Cook who somewhere commented that a person 
can only think perspicuously in one system of dating at a time. I have chosen to 
think in A.D., and all dates are given in that system unless clearly marked otherwise. 

English translations of Qur'anic passages are taken or adapted from Arthur 
Arberry's magnificent rendering of the Qur'an's meaning/ 17 ) English translations of 
biblical passages, when not translated directly from the versions encountered, lean on 
those of the Revised Standard Version/ 18 ) 

The current trend in English theological writing is to avoid the capitalization 
of pronouns referring to God. However, Arabic texts tend to be pronoun-rich and 
antecedent-poor, and it is a great help to a struggling translator to be allowed to use 
capital letters in order to specify the antecedent of some pronouns. I use "He," "His," 
and "Him" in referring to Allah (in Islamic texts) or to God the Holy Trinity or God 

17. ARBERRY, Koran (1964). 

18. As found in Herbert G. MAY and Bruce M. METZGER (eds.), The New Oxford Annotated Bible 
with the Apocrypha: Revised Standard Version, New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. 


the Father (in Christian ones). I do not capitalize pronouns referring to Jesus Christ, 
the Son of God, God the Word. 

The text has been prepared using Gamma Productions' Multi-Lingual Scholar 
word processor, version 3.27. 


My study program and my family's sojourn in Rome would not have been possible 
without the generosity of the members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 
(ELCA), and in particular of the members of a number of congregations that make special 
contributions to our financial support. We are deeply in their debt! Furthermore, we have 
received unstinting support from the Board and executive staff of the ELCA's Division for 
Global Mission, in particular from the Rev. Warner W. Luoma, Ms. Carol J. Birkland, the Rev. 
David H. Nelson, and Dr. Mark W. Thomsen. Special thanks go to Carol, whose enthusiastic 
and cheerful backing played a major role in getting us to Rome. 

The Board of the Evangelical Theological Seminary (Cairo, Egypt) very graciously gave 
me leave to study abroad. Dr. Martha Roy of that institution deserves special thanks, she was 
an immediate believer in the rather unusual project of an American Lutheran pastor going to 
Rome for study, and gave it her very weighty blessing. 

I was received with great hospitality by the faculty and staff of the Pontifical 
Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (PISAI), and would like especially to record my deep 
appreciation for the encouragement of the late Fr. Armand Garon, pb, president of the 
Institute at the time of my initial enquiries and enrollment. Among the many people 
associated with the PISAI who have helped me with my work, I must mention Fr. Jean-Marie 
Gaudeul, pb, who has been a good and wise friend as well as dissertation supervisor; Fr. 
Samir Khalil Samir, sj, who with extraordinary generosity has shared advice, expertise, and 
access to source materials; and Prof. Sameh Faragallah, with whom I have enjoyed many a 
delightful hour of grammatical and syntactical detective work in medieval Arabic texts. 

I believe that the pleasure taken in research is proportional to the quality of the 
libraries to which one has access; the three libraries that I have frequented in Rome have 
made research a joy. Fr. Albert Muller, pb, and assistants at the PISAI library have always 
granted me every possible facility in my work. The library of the Pontifical Institute of 
Oriental Studies not only has a splendid collection of materials on Middle Eastern Christianity, 
it is also an uncommonly pleasant and easy place in which to work, thanks to the vision and 
efficiency of Fr. James Duggan, sj, and his staff. The Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana is one of 
the wonders of the academic world, and I thank Fr. Leonard Boyle, op, and his staff for the 
privilege of making use of its collections. 

To thank in print everyone who has contributed in some way to the writing of this 
dissertation would require a work of autobiography! I must instead content myself with 
recording my gratitude to family members, friends, teachers, and colleagues scattered across the 
globe. I look forward to the opportunity of thanking many of them personally in the weeks 
and months ahead. Four people, however, deserve the most special of thanks. Whatever 
discordant variations on the themes of research and dissertation-writing have come along 
during the past three years, my life as a graduate student has always been sustained by a 
joyful continuo provided by my wife Rosanne and our three children: Carl, Hannah, and 
Rebekah. I dedicate this work to them. 

Mark N. Swanson 
Rome, Italy 
August 20, 1992 


AB Analecta Bollandiana 

ar. Arabic 

BL British Library 

Bull. SO AS Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 

Byz Byzantion 

BZ Byzantinische Zeitschrift 

c. century 
ca. circa 
chr. Christian 
col., cols. column(s) 
coll. collection 

Cor. St. Paul's letters to the Corinthians 

CSCO Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium 

d. died 

Deut. Deuteronomy 

DOP Dumbarton Oaks Papers 

ed. editor, edition, edited by 

El (1) The Encyclopaedia of Islam, I-IV and Supplement, 

Leiden: E.J. Brill and London: Luzac & Co., 1913-38. 

El (2) The Encyclopaedia of Islam, new edition, I- VI (incomplete), 

Leiden: E.J. Brill and London: Luzac & Co., 1960-. 

EO Echos d'Orient 

esp. especially 

ET English translation 

f„ ff. folio(s) 

fasc. fascicle 

FT French translation 

GAL Carl BROCKELMANN, Geschichte der arabischen Literatur, I-H, 

Weimar: Emil Felber, 1898 and Berlin: Emil Felber, 1902. 
Supplemental vols. I-III, Leiden: EJ. Brill, 1937-42. 

Gal. St Paul's letter to the Galatians 

GAS Fuat SEZGIN, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, I-IX, 

Leiden: EJ. Brill, 1967-84. 

GCAL Georg GRAF, Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur, 

I-IV and index (coll. ST 118, 133, 146, 147, 172), 
Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1944-53. 

GT German translation 

H. higri, year of the Hegira 

HTR Harvard Theological Review 

ILOB Institut des Lettres Orientales (Beirut) 





ISCH, "Biblio- 





















p., pp. 

par., parr. 












1 slamochristiana 

Robert CASPAR, Abdelmajid CHARFI, Miguel DE ESPALZA, 
Adel Theodore KHOURY, Khalil SAMIR et al, "Bibliographic du 
dialogue islamo-chretien," I slamochristiana 1 (1975) 125-81; 

2 (1976) 187-249; 3 (1977) 255-86; 4 (1978) 247-67; 5 (299-317); 

6 (1980) 259-99; 7 (1981) 299-307; 10 (1984) 273-92; 13 (1987) 173-80; 
15 (1989) 169-74 . . . 
Italian translation 
Journal Asiatique 

Journal of the American Oriental Society 

Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 

Latin translation 

The Septuagint 

(Coptic) Year of the Martyrs 

al-Masriq dJ jJL^JI) 


Le Museon 

Melanges de IVniversite Saint-Joseph 
The Muslim World 

nouvel fonds (as in the newly discovered MSS of St. Catherine's 

Monastery, Mount Sinai) 

Oriens Christianus 

Orientalia Christiana Analecta 

Orientalia Christiana Periodica 

Oxford Early Christian Texts 

Ostkirchliche Studien 




and parallel(s) (esp. in the synoptic gospels) 
Parole de I'Orient 

Patrimoine Arabe Chretien ( l y*~~J\ Cj\ >J0 


Peter, as in the letters of St. Peter 

J.-P. MIGNE (ed.), Patrologiae cursus completus, Series Graeca, 

161 vols., Petit Montrouge: 1857-66. 

Pontificio Istituto di Studi Arabi e d'Islamistica (Rome) 

Pont. Istitutum Studiorum Orientalium (Rome) 

Patrologia Orientalis 

Patristische Texte und Studien 

Revue des Etudes Islamiques 


ROC Revue de I'Orient Chretien 

Rom. St. Paul's letter to the Romans 

RSO Rivista degli Studi Orientali 

SC Sources Chretiennes 

SI Studia Islamica 

SS Studia Sinaitica 

ST Studi e Testi 

subs. subsidia 

syr. Syriac 

trans. translator(s), translation, translated by 

ZDMG Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenldndischen Gesellschaft 

Zech. Zechariah 


Published Sources 


The works listed below have been given an abbreviated designation of the 
form AUTHOR or EDITOR, "Keyword" or Keyword (Date). A problem arises in 
dealing with works written by one person and edited (and frequently introduced and 
commented upon) by another. In Arabic Christian studies such works are normally 
listed by editor, a practice which will be followed below. Thus "SAMIR, Misbdh 
(1970)" refers to Samir Khalil Samir's edition of Abu 1-Barakat Ibn Kabar's Misbdh 
al-zulmah. In Islamic studies, however, it is more customary to refer to books by 
author, especially since many classical texts printed in the Middle East have no editor 
in the Western sense of the word. In the list below I have therefore tended to list 
classical Islamic texts by author. Thus "TABARI, Tafsir (1955-)" refers to the Dar 
al-Ma'arif (Cairo) edition of the Tafsir al-Tabari, edited by Mahmud Muhammad 
Sakir and Ahmad Muhammad Sakir (whose names are of course given in the full 
bibliographical entry). A certain inconsistency results, but I hope that the result is 
reasonably clear and practical. 

'ABD AL-SALAM, al-Gahiz (1979) = 'ABD AL-SALAM Muhammad Harun (ed.), 
Risd'il al-Gdhiz, III, Cairo: Maktabat al-Hangl, 1979. 

ABEL, "Apocalypse" (1935) = Armand ABEL, "L'Apocalypse de Bahira et la notion 
islamique de Mahdi," Annuaire de I'lnstitut de Philologie et d'Histoire 
Orientales (Bruxelles) 3 (1935) 1-12. 

ABEL, "Refutation" (1949) - (ed. and trans.), "Abu 'Isa Muhammad b. 

Harun al Warraq: Le livre pour la refutation des trois sectes chretiennes," 
typewritten dissertation, Brussels: 1949. 

ABEL, "St. Theodore" (1949) = , "La portee apologetique de la «Vie» de 

St. Theodore d'Edesse," Byzantinoslavica 10 (1949) 229-40. 

ABEL, "Changements" (1954) = , "Changements politiques et litterature 

eschatologique," SI 2 (1954) 23-43. 

ABEL, "Lettre" (1954) = , "La lettre polemique «d'Arethas» a l'emir de 

Damas," Byz 24 (1954) 343-70. 



ABEL, "Rome" (1958) = , "Un hadit_ sur la prise de Rome dans la 

tradition eschatologique de l'lslam," Arabica 5 (1958) 1-14. 

ABEL, "Bahlra" (1960) = , "Bahira," El (2), I, 922-23. 

ABEL, "Chapitre CI" (1963) = , "Le chapitre CI du Livre des Heresies de 

Jean Damascene: son inauthenticite," 5/ 19 (1963) 5-25. 

ABEL, "Kind!" (1964) = , "L'apologie d'al Kindi et sa place dans la 

polemique islamo-chretienne," in L'oriente cristiano nella storia della civilta 
(coll. Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, Anno CCCLXI - 1964, Quaderno 62), 
Rome: Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei, 1964, pp. 501-23. 

ABOUNA/FIEY, 1234 (1974) = Albert ABOUNA and J.-M. FIEY (trans.), Anonymi 
auctoris: Chronicon ad AC 1234 pertinens, II (coll. CSCO 354/syr. 154), 
Louvain: Secretariat du CorpusSCO, 1974. [Translation volume of CHABOT, 
1234 (1917-20), HJ 

ABU DA'UD, Sunan (1952) = ABU DA'UD Sulayman b. al-As'at b. Ishaq al-Azadl 
al-Sigistani, Sunan Abl Dd'iid, I-II (ed. AHMAD SA'D 'ALI), Cairo: Mustafa 
al-Babi al-Halabi, 1371/1952. 

'ADIL NUWAYHID, Din (1979) = 'ADIL NUWAYHID (ed.), 'All ibn Rabban 
al-Tabari: al-Din wa l-dawlah fi it bat nubuwwat al-nabi Muhammad, 3rd 
printing, Beirut: Dar al-afaq al-gadidah, 1979. 

ALEXANDER, "Apocalypses" (1968) = Paul J. ALEXANDER, "Medieval Apocalpyses 
as Historical Sources," American Historical Review 73 (1968) 997-1018; 
reprinted in ALEXANDER, Empire (1978), essay XUI. 

ALEXANDER, "Migration" (1971) = , "Byzantium and the Migration of 

Literary Works and Motifs: The Legend of the Last Roman Emperor," 
Medievalia et Humanistica 2 (1971) 47-68; reprinted in ALEXANDER, 
Empire (1978), essay XII. 

ALEXANDER, Empire (1978) = , Religious and Political History and 

Thought in the Byzantine Empire: Collected Studies, London: Variorum 
Reprints, 1978. 

ALEXANDER, Tradition (1985) = , The Byzantine Apocalyptic Tradition 

(ed. Dorothy deF. ABRAHAMSE), Berkeley: University of California Press, 


ALLARD, Textes (1968) = Michel ALLARD (ed.), Textes apologetiques de Guwaini 
(m. 478/1085) (coll. Recherches ILOB, I, 43), Beirut: Dar el-Machreq, 1968. 

ALLOUCHE, "Traite" (1939) = I. S. ALLOUCHE, "Un traite de polemique 
christiano-musulmane au IX e siecle," Hes peris 26 (1939) 129-55. 

AMELINEAU, Monuments (1888) = E. AMELINEAU (ed.), Monuments pour servir a 
I'histoire de I'Egypte chretienne aux IVe et Ve siecles (coll. Memoires 
publies par les membres de la Mission Archeologique Francaise au Caire, 4), 
Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1888. 

ANAWATI, "Polemique" (1969) = Georges C. ANAWATI, "Polemique, apologie et 
dialogue islamo-chretien. Positions classiques medievales et positions 
contemporaines," Euntes Docete 12 (1969), 375-452. 

ARBERRY, Koran (1964) = Arthur J. ARBERRY, The Koran Interpreted (coll. The 
World's Classics, 596), London: Oxford University Press, 1964 [first printing 

ARCHAMBAULT, Dialogue (1909) = Georges ARCHAMBAULT (ed. and trans.), 
Justin: Dialogue avec Tryphon, I-II (coll. Textes et Documents pour l'Etude 
Historique du Christianisme), Paris: Alphonse Picard, 1909. 

ARENDZEN, Libellus (1897) = Joannes ARENDZEN (ed. and trans.), Theodori Abu 
Kurra de cultu imaginum libellus e codice arabico nunc primum editus 
latine versus illustratus, Bonn: 1897. 

ARMSTRONG, "Cross" (1979) = Gregory T. ARMSTRONG, "The Cross in the Old 
Testament According to Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem and the Cappadocian 
Fathers," in Carl ANDRESEN and Gunter KLEIN (eds.), Theologia Crucis - 
Signum Crucis: Festschrift fur Erich Dinkier zum 70. Geburtstag, Tubingen: 
J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1979, pp. 17-38. 

ATIYA, Hand-list (1955) = Aziz Suryal ATIYA, The Arabic Manuscripts of Mount 
Sinai: A Hand-list of the Arabic Manuscripts and Scrolls Microfilmed at 
the Library of the Monastery of St. Catherine, Mount Sinai, Baltimore: The 
Johns Hopkins Press, 1955. 

ATIYA, Catalogue (1970) = , Catalogue Raisonne of the Mount Sinai 

Arabic Manuscripts: Complete Analytical Listing of the Arabic Collection 
Preserved in the Monastery of St. Catherine on Mt. Sinai, I (translated into 
Arabic by Joseph N. YOUSSEF), Alexandria: al-Maaref Est., 1970. 


AULEN, Victor (1949) = Gustave AULEN, Christus Victor: La notion chretienne de 
redemption (coll. Les Religions, 4), Paris: Aubier, 1949 [translation of 
Swedish original of 1931]. 

AYOUB, "Christology" (1980) = Mahmoud M. AYOUB, "Towards an Islamic 
Christology II: The Death of Jesus, Reality or Delusion (A Study of the 
Death of Jesus in the Tafsir Literature)," MW 70 (1980) 91-121. 

BACHA, Maydmir (1904) = Qustantin al-BASA (ed.), Maydmir Tawudurus Abi 
Qurrah usquf Harrdn, aqdam ta'lif 'arabi nasrdni, Beirut: Matba'at 
al-fawa'id, 1904. 

BACHA, Traite (1905) = Constantin BACHA (trans.), Un traite des oeuvres de 
Theodore Aboukurra, Tripoli and Paris: 1905. 

BAGDADI, Farq (n.d.) = Abu Mansur 'Abd al-Qahir b. Tahir al-BAGDADI, al-Farq 
bayn al-firaq (ed. TAHA 'ABD AL-RA'UF SA'D), Cairo: Mu'assasat al-Halabi 
wa-suraka'ihi li-l-nasr wa-l-tawzT', n.d. 

BARDY, "Trophees" (1920) = Gustave BARDY (ed. and trans.), "Les trophees de 
Damas. Controverse judeo-chretienne du VII e siecle," PO 15 (1920) 169-292, 
Paris: Firmin-Didot et Cie., 1920. 

BARDY, "Litterature" (1933) = , "La litterature patristique des 

«Quaestiones et responsiones» sur 1'ecriture sainte," Revue Biblique 42 (1933) 

BARSAUM, "819" (1920) = Aphram BARSAUM (ed.), "Chronicon anonymum ad 
annum Domini 819 pertinens," in CHABOT, 1234 (1917-20), I, 1-24. 

BASETTI-SANI, Corano (1972) = Giulio BASETTI-SANI, // Corano nell luce di 
Crist o: Saggio per una reinterpretazione cristiana del libro sacro 
deU'islam, Bologna: Editizioni Nigrizia, 1972. 

BASETTI-SANI, Vangelo (1991) = , Dal Corano al Vangelo, Spino 

d'Adda: Grafica GM, 1991. 

BASSET, Sibylle (1900) = Rene BASSET (trans.), Les apocryphes ethiopiens, X: La 
sagesse de Sibylle, Paris: Bibliotheque de la Haute Science, 1900. 

BAYDAW1, Anwar (1925) = Nasir al-Din Abu Sa'Td 'Abd Allah b. 'Umar 
b. Muhammad al-Sirazi al-BAYDAWI, Anwar al-tanzil wa-asrar al-ta'wil, 
Cairo: Mustafa al-Babl al-Halabi, Safar 1344 (= 1925). 


BAYNES, "Icons" (1951) = Norman H. BAYNES, "The Icons before Iconoclasm," 
HTR 44 (1951) 93-106, reprinted in idem, Byzantine Studies and Other 
Essays, London: University of London, the Athlone Press, 1955, pp. 226-39. 

BEES, "Manuscrit" (1913) = Nikos A. BEES, "Un manuscrit des Meteores de Fan 861/2 
(avec une etude sur les manuscrits grecs dates de IX e siecle)," Revue des 
Etudes Grecques 26 (1913) 53-74. 

BERNARDAKIS, "Culte" (1901-2) = P. BERNARDAKIS, "Le culte de la croix chez les 
grecs," EO 5 (1901-1902) 193-202, 257-64. 

BIDAWID, Lettres (1966) = R. J. BIDAWID, Les lettres du patriarche nestorien 
Timothee I (coll. ST 187), Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1966. 

BIDEZ, Philostorgius (1972) = Joseph BIDEZ (ed.), Philostorgius: Kirchengeschichte, 
mit dem Leben des Lucian von Antiochien und den Fragmenten eines 
arianischen Historiographen (coll. Die griechischen christlichen Schriftsteller 
der ersten Jahrhunderte), 2nd ed., Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1972. 

M. G. LEVI DELLA VIDA, "Une version latine de l'apocalypse syro-arabe de 
Serge-Bahira," Melanges d'Archeologie et d'Histoire (Ecole Francaise de 
Rome) 62 (1950) 125-48. 

BIHAIN, "Epitre" (1973) = Ernest BIHAIN, "L'epitre de Cyrille de Jerusalem a 
Constance sur la vision de la Croix (BHG 3 413)," Byz 43 (1973) 264-96. 

BIJLEFELD, "Prophet" (1969) = Willem A. BIJLEFELD, "A Prophet and More than a 
Prophet?" MW 59 (1969) 1-28. 

BLAKE, "Lacunes" (1950) = Robert P. BLAKE, "Deux lacunes comblees dans la Passio 
XX Sabaitarum," AB 68 (1950) 27-43. 

BLAU, Grammar (1966-67) = Joshua BLAU, A Grammar of Christian Arabic I-III 
(coll. CSCO 267, 276, 279/subs. 27-29), Louvain: Secretariat du CorpusSCO, 

BLUMENKRANZ, Judenpredigt (1946) = Bernhard BLUMENKRANZ, Die 
Judenpredigt Augustins: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der judisch-christ lichen 
Beziehungen in der ersten J ahrhunderten (coll. Basler Beitrage zur 
Geschichtswissenschaft, 25), Basel: von Helbing & Lichtenhahn, 1946. 

BORRMANS, "Mystery" (1976) = M. BORRMANS, "Muslims and the Mystery of the 
Cross: Rejection or Incomprehension?" Encounter no. 25 (May 1976) 1-13. 


BOTTE, Tradition (1968) = Bernard BOTTE (ed. and trans.), Hyppolyte de Rome: La 
tradition apostolique d'apres les anciennes versions (coll. SC ll bls ), 2nd ed., 
Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1968. 

BOUAMAMA, Litterature (1988) = Ali BOUAMAMA, La litterature polemique 
musulmane contre le christianisme, depuis les origines jusqu'au XHIe siecle, 
Algiers: Enterprise Nationale du Livre, 1988. 

BOUYGES, "Tabariy" (1935) = Maurice BOUYGES, "'Aliy ibn Rabban at-Tabariy," Der 
Islam 22 (1935) 120-21. 

BOUYGES, "Informations" (1949-50) = , "Nos informations sur 

'Aliy . . . at-Tabariy," MUSJ 28 (1949-50) 69-114. 

BRECKINRIDGE, Iconography (1959) = James D. BRECKINRIDGE, The Numismatic 
Iconography of Justinian II (685-695, 705-711 AD.) (coll. Numismatic Notes 
and Monographs), New York: The American Numismatic Society, 1959. 

BREYDY, Etudes (1983) = Michel BREYDY, Etudes sur Sa'id ibn Batrlq et ses 
sources (coll. CSCO 450/subs. 69), Louvain: E. Peeters, 1983. 

BREYDY, Annalenwerk (1985) = (ed. and trans.), Das Annalenwerk des 

Eutychios von Alexandrien: Ausgewdhlte Geschichten und Legenden 
kompiliert von Sa'id ibn Batriq urn 935 A.D. (coll. CSCO 471-72/ ar. 44-45), 
Louvain: E. Peeters, 1985. 

BREYDY, "Agapius" (1989) = , "Richtigstellungen uber Agapius von 

Manbig und sein historisches Werk," OC 73 (1989) 90-96. 

BROCK, "Sources" (1976) = Sebastian P. BROCK, "Syriac Sources for Seventh-Century 
History," Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 2 (1976) 17-36. 

BROCK, "Survey" (1979-80) = , "Syriac Historical Writing: A Survey of 

the Main Sources," Journal of the Iraqi Academy, Syriac Corporation 5 
(1979-1980) 326-297. 

BROCK, "Metaphors" (1982) = , "Clothing Metaphors as a Means of 

Theological Expression in Syriac Tradition," in Margot SCHMIDT (ed.), 
Typus, Symbol, Allegorie bei den ost lichen Vatern und ihren Parallelen im 
Mittelalter (coll. Eichstatter Beitrage, 4), Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet, 1982, 
and reprinted in BROCK, Studies (1992). 


BROCK, "Christology" (1985) = , "The Christology of the Church of the 

East in the Synods of the Fifth to Early Seventh Centuries," in G. DRAGAS 
(ed.), Aksum-Thyateira: A Festschrift for Archbishop Methodios, London: 
1985, and reprinted in BROCK, Studies (1992). 

BROCK, Studies (1992) = , Studies in Syriac Christianity: History, 

Literature and Theology, Hampshire, U.K.: Variorum, 1992. 

BROOKS, Chronica (1904) = E.-W. BROOKS (ed.), Chronica Minora, Pars secunda 
(coll. CSCO 3/syr. 3), Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1904. [For the LT see 
CHABOT, Chronica (1904).] 

BUDGE, History (1899) = Ernest A. Wallis BUDGE (ed. and trans.), The History of 
the Blessed Virgin Mary and the History of the Likeness of Christ which 
the Jews of Tiberias Made to Mock at, I-D, London: Luzac and Co., 1899. 

BUDGE, Chronography (1932) = (ed.), The Chronography of Gregory 

Abii 'l-Faraj (1225-1286) the Son of Aaron, the Hebrew Physician, 
Commonly Known as Bar Hebraeus: Being the First Part of his Political 
History of the World, I-II, Amsterdam: APA-Philo Press, 1976. [Reprint of 
edition of London: 1932.] 

BUHARI, Sahih (1862-1908) = M. Ludolf KREHL, continued by Th. W. JUYNBOLL 
(eds.), Le recueil des traditions mohometanes par Abou Abdallah 
Mohammed ibn Ismail el-Bokhari, I-IV, Leiden: EJ. Brill, 1862-1908. 

BULLIET, Conversion (1979) = Richard W. BULLIET, Conversion to Islam in the 
Medieval Period: An Essay in Quantitative History, Cambridge, 
Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1979. 

BULLIET, "Process" (1990) = , "Process and Status in Conversion and 

Continuity," in GERVERS/BIKHAZI, Conversion (1990), pp. 1-12. 

CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61) = Pierre CACHIA (ed.), Eutychius of Alexandria: 
The Book of the Demonstration (Kitab al-Burhdn), I-II (coll. CSCO 192/ar. 
20, 209/ar. 22), Louvain: Secretariat du CorpusSCO, 1960-61. [For the ET see 
WATT, Demonstration (1960-1), with corresponding paragraph enumeration.] 

CAETANI, Annali (1905-26) = Leone CAETANI, Annali dell'Islam, I-X, Hildesheim 
and New York: Georg Olms, 1972 [reprint of the original of 1905-1926]. 

CAMELOT, Ignace (1969) = P. Th. CAMELOT (ed.), Ignace d'Antioche, Poly car pe de 
Smyrne: Lettres, Martyre de Polycarpe (coll. SC 10), Paris: Les Editions du 
Cerf, 1969. 


CANARD, "Aventures" (1955-56) = Marius CANARD, "A ventures d'un prisonnier 
arabe: recit tire de Tanukhl (X e siecle), al-Faradj ba'd ash-shidda, La 
deliverance apres 1'angoisse (I, 138-47)," DOP 9-10 (1955-56) 49-72. 

CARDAILLAC, "Polemique" (1972) = Denise CARDAILLAC, "La polemique 
anti-chretienne du manuscrit Aljamiado No 4944 de la Bibliotheque Nationale 
de Madrid," I-II, unpublished doctoral dissertation, Montpellier: 1972. 

CASPAR, "Versions" (1977) = Robert CASPAR, "Les versions arabes du dialogue entre 
le catholicos Timothee I et le calife al-Mahdi (II e /VIII e siecle) I Mohammed a 
suivi la voie des prophetes»," ISCH 3 (1977) 107-75. 

CHABOT, Michel (1899-1910) = J.-B. CHABOT (ed. and trans.), Chronique de Michel le 
Syrien, Patriarche Jacobite d'Antioche (1166-1199), I-III (FT) and IV (Syriac 
text), Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1899-1910. 

CHABOT, Chronica (1904) = (trans.), Chronica Minora, Pars secunda 

(coll. CSCO 4/syr. 4), Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1904. [Translation volume 
of BROOKS, Chronica (1904).] 

CHABOT, 1234 (1917-20) = (ed.), Anonymi auctoris: Chronicon ad 

annum christi 1234 pertinens ( praemissum est: Chronicon Anonymum ad 
A.D. 819 pertinens) I-II (coll. CSCO 81-82/syr. 36-37), Paris: Imprimerie 
Nationale, 1920, 1917. [For a LT of I see CHABOT, 1234 (1937). For a FT of 
II see ABOUNA/FIEY, 1234 (1974).] 

CHABOT, 1234 (1937) = (trans.), Anonymi auctoris: Chronicon ad 

annum christi 1234 pertinens (praemissum est: Chronicon Anonymum ad 
A.D. 819 pertinens) I (coll. CSCO 109/syr. 56), Louvain: ex officina orientali 
et scientifica, 1937. [Translation volume of CHABOT, 1234 (1917-20), L] 

CHAHNAZARIAN, Histoire (1858) = Garabed V. CHAHNAZARIAN (trans.), Histoire 
des guerres et des conquetes des arabes en Armenie par I 'eminent Ghevond, 
vardabed armenien ecrivain du huitieme siecle, Paris: Librairie de Ch. 
Meyrueis, 1858. 

CHARFI, "Christianity" (1980) = Abdelmajid CHARFI, "Christianity in the Qur'an 
Commentary of Tabarl," ISCH 6 (1980) 105-48. 

CHARFI, Radd (1986) = 'Abd al-Magid al-SARFI, al-Fikr al-lslami fi l-radd 'aid 
al-Nasdrd ila nihayat al-qarn al-rdbi'/al-'asir, Algiers: al-Mu'assasah 
al-wataniyyah li-l-kitab and Tunis: al-Dar al-tunisi li-l-nasr, 1986. 


CHARFI, "Fonction" (1994) = Abdelmajid CHARFI, "La fonction historique de la 
polemique islamochretienne a l'epoque abbasside," in SAMIR/NIELSEN, 
Apologetics (1994), pp. 44-56. 

CHEIKHO H., Dialectique (1983) = Hanna CHEIKHO, Dialectique du langage sur 
Dieu de Timothee I (728-823) a Serge, Rome: 1983. 

CHEIKHO, Seize traites (1906) = Louis CHEIKHO (ed.), Seize traites theologiques 
d'auteurs arabes Chretiens, Beirut: 1906. 

CHEIKHO, Annales (1906-9) = (ed.), Eutychii patriarchae Alexandrini 

Annates, I-II (coll. CSCO 50-51/ar. 6-7), Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique and 
Paris: C. Poussielgue, 1906-9. 

CHEIKHO, "Wugud" (1912) = , "Mimar li-Tawudurus Abl Qurrah fl 

wugud al-haliq wa 1-din al-qawim," Mas 15 (1912) 757-74, 825-42. 

CHEIKHO, Vingt traites (1920) = (ed.), Vingt traites theologiques 

d'auteurs arabes Chretiens, Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1920. 

COHEN, Monnaies (1880-92) = Henry COHEN, Description historique des monnaies 
f rap pees sous I' empire romain, I- VIII, 2nd ed., Paris: Rollin & Feuardent, 

COLLERAN, Anselm (1969) = Joseph M. COLLERAN (trans.), Why God Became 
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IBN KATIR, Tafsir (1970-83) = , Tafslr al-Qur'dn al-karlm, I-VII, 

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IBN MAGAH, Sunan (1952-53) = Abu 'Abd Allah Muhammad b. Yazld al-Quzwaynl 
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IBN al-NADIM, Fihrist (1929-30) = IBN al-NADIM, al-Fihrist, Cairo: al-Maktabah 
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IBN QUTAYBAH, Vyun (1925-30) = Abu Muhammad 'Abd Allah b. Muslim IBN 
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IBN QUTAYBAH, Muskil (1954) = , Ta'wil muskil al-Qur'dn (ed. 

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GIBSON, Forty-One Facsimiles of Dated Christian Arabic Manuscripts with 
Text and English Translation (coll. SS 12), Cambridge: Univeristy Press, 1907. 

B. LEWIS, "Vision" (1949-50) = Bernard LEWIS, "An Apocalyptic Vision of Islamic 
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McCAULEY/STEPHENSON, Cyril (1969-70) = Leo P. McCAULEY and Anthony A. 
STEPHENSON (trans.), The Works of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, I-II (coll. The 
Fathers of the Church: A New Translation, 61, 64), Washington, D.C: The 
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London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1987. 

McGRATH, Genesis (1990) = , The Genesis of Doctrine: A Study in the 

Foundations of Doctrinal Criticism, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990. 

McINERNEY, "Commonplaces" (1979) = Joseph Lee McINERNEY, "Soteriological 
Commonplaces in Cyril of Alexandria's Commentary on the Gospel of John," 
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Robert F. Evans (coll. Patristic Monograph Series, 6), Philadelphia: The 
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MADELUNG, "Prophecies" (1986) = Wilferd MADELUNG, "Apocalyptic Prophecies in 
Hims in the Umayyad Age," Journal of Semitic Studies 31 (1986) 141-85. 

MADELUNG, "Sufyani" (1986) = , "The Sufyani between Tradition and 

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MADELUNG, "Mahdi" (1991) = , "al-Mahdl," EI (2), V, 1230-38. 

MAGUIRE, House (1989) = Eunice Dauterman MAGUIRE, Henry P. MAGUIRE, and 
Maggie J. DUNCAN-FLOWERS, Art and Holy Powers in the Early 
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University of Illinois Press, 1989. 

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al-nasraniyyah al-'arabiyyah," Mas 6 (1903) 1011-23. 

MANGO, "Theophanes" (1978) = Cyril MANGO, "Who Wrote the Chronicle of 
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MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986) = Giacinto Bulus MARCUZZO (ed. and trans.), Le 
dialogue d' Abraham de Tiberiade avec ' Abd al-Rahman al-Hasimi a 
Jerusalem vers 820 (coll. Textes et Etudes sur l'Orient Chretien, 3), Rome: 

MARQUET, "Ihwan" (1982) = Yves MARQUET, "Les Ihwan al-Safa' et le 
christianisme," ISCH 8 (1982) 129-58. 


MARTIKAINEN, Johannes I. Sedra (1991) = Jouko MARTIKAINEN (ed. and trans.), 
Johannes I. Sedra: Einleitung, syrische Texte, Ubersetzung und 
vollstdndiges W orterverzeichnis (coll. Gottinger Orientforschungen, 1,34), 
Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1991. 

MARTINEZ, Apocalyptic (1985) = Francisco Javier MARTINEZ (ed. and trans.), 
Eastern Christian Apocalyptic in the Early Muslim Period: 
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MARTINEZ, "Genre" (1987) = , "The Apocalyptic Genre in Syriac: The 

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MAS'UDI, Murug (1861-76) = al-MAS'UDI, Les prairies d'or (ed. and trans. C. 
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MASSIGNON, "Al-Kindi" (1927) = Louis MASSIGNON, "Al-Kindl, 'Abd al-Masih b. 
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MASSIGNON, Recueil (1929) = (ed. and trans.), Recueil de textes inedits 

concernant Vhistorire de la mystique en pays d'lslam (coll. Collection de 
Textes Inedits Relatifs a la Mystique Musulmane, 1), Paris: Librairie 
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MASSIGNON, "Christ" (1932) = , "Le Christ dans les Evangiles, selon 

Ghazali," REI 6 (1932) 5-36. 

MASSIGNON, "CEuvre" (1941-46) = , "L'oeuvre hallagienne d'Attar," R E I 

(1941-46) 117-44. 

MAYER, 'Uqud (1933) = L.A. MAYER (ed.), Maqrizi's Shudhur al-Uqud, Part I. 
The Text in Facsimile, Alexandria: Whitehead Morris, 1933. 

MEIMARES, Catalogue (1985) = Ioannes Emm. MEIMARES, Katalogos ton Neon 
Arabikon Cheirographon tes Hieras Mones Hagias Aikaterines tou orous 
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MERIDIER, Discours (1908) = Louis MERIDIER (ed. and trans.), Gregoire de Nysse: 
Discours catechetique (coll. Textes et Documents pour l'Etude Historique du 
Christianisme), Paris: Alphonse Picard et fils, 1908. 

MEYENDORFF, Christ (1975) = John MEYENDORFF, Christ in Eastern Christian 
Thought, Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1975. 


MEYERHOF, '"All at-Tabarl" (1931) = Max MEYERHOF, "'All ibn Rabban at-Tabari, 
ein persischer Artz des 9. Jahrhunderts n. Chr.," ZDMG 85 = N.F. 10 (1931) 

MILES, "Coinage" (1967) = George C. MILES, "The Earliest Arab Gold Coinage," 
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MINGANA, Defence (1922) = A. MINGANA (trans.), 'Ali Tabari: The Book of 
Religion and Empire: A Semi-Official Defence and Exposition of Islam 
Written by Order at the Court and with the Assistance of the Caliph 
Mutawakkil (A.D. 847-861), Manchester: University Press, 1922. 

MINGANA, Religion (1923) = (ed.), 'Ali Tabari: The Book of Religion 

and Empire, Manchester: University Press, 1923. 

MINGANA, "Apology" (1928) = (ed. and trans.), "The Apology of 

Timothy," in Woodbrook Studies: Christian Documents in Syriac, Arabic, 
and Garshuni, Edited and Translated with a Critical Apparatus, Vol. II, 
Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons, 1928, pp. 1-162. 

MINGANA, Catalogue II (1936) = , Catalogue of the Mingana Collection 

of Manuscripts, Vol. II, Christian Arabic Manuscripts and Additional Syriac 
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MINGANA, Catalogue III (1939) = , Catalogue of the Mingana 

Collection of Manuscripts, Vol. Ill, Additional Christian Arabic and Syriac 
Manuscripts (coll. Woodbrooke Catalogues, 3), Cambridge: W. Heffer, 1939. 

MOREAU, "Vision" (1953) = J. MOREAU, "Sur la vision de Constantin," Revue des 
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MOSSHAMMER, Ecloga (1984) = Alden A. MOSSHAMMER (ed.), Georgii Syncelli 
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Zentralinstitut fur alte Geschichte und Archaologie; Bibliotheca Scriptorum 
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MUIR, Apology (1887) = William MUIR (trans.), The Apology of Al Kindy; written at 
the court of al-Mamun (c. A.H. 215; A.D. 830), in defense of Christianity 
against Islam, London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1887. 

MURQUS GIRGIS, Saha'ih (1927-28) = MURQUS GIRGIS (ed.), Kitab al-saha'ih fi 
gawdb al-nasa'ih, tasnlf al-Safi ibn al-sayh Fahr al-Dawlah Abi l-Fadl Ibn 
al-'Assal, Cairo: al-Maktabah al-gadidah, 1643 M. (= 1927-28). 


MUSLIM, Sahlh (1929-31) = Abu 1-Husayn MUSLIM ibn al-Hugag al-Qusayn 
al-NTsaburi, Sahlh Muslim, I-V, Cairo: Dar ihya' al-kutub al-'arabiyyah, 'Isa 
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NASRALLAH, Hlstoire (1988) = Joseph NASRALLAH, Hlstoire du mouvement 
lltteralre dans ieglise melchlte du We au XXe siecle, II.2, 750-Xe S., 
Louvain: Peeters and Paris: by the author, 1988. 

NAU, "Texte" (1902) = F. NAU, "Le texte grec des recits du moine Anastase sur les 
saints peres du Sinai," OC 2 (1902) 58-89. 

NAU, "Recits" (1902) = , "Les recits inedits du moine Anastase: 

Contribution a I'histoire du Sinai au commencement du VII e siecle," Revue de 
I'Institut Catholique de Paris (1902) 1-70. [FT of previous entry.] 

NAU, "Didascalia" (1912) = (ed. and trans.), "La Didascalie de Jacob (texte 

grec), original du Sargis d'Aberga {P.O., 111,4)," PO 8 (1912) 711-80, Paris: 
Firmin-Didot et Cie., 1912. 

NAU, "Fete" (1914) = , "Sur la fete de la Croix: Analyse d'une homelie 

de Moyse bar Cepha et du ms. grec 1586 de Paris," ROC 19 (1914) 225-46. 

NAU, "Colloque" (1915) = , "Un colloque du patriarche Jean avec l'Emir 

des Agareens," J A 5, ser. II (1915) 227-79. 

NAU, "Compte-rendu" (1929) = , review of Woodbrooke Studies, II [see 

MINGANA, "Apology" (1928)], Revue de I'Histoire des Religions 50 (1929) 

NEWBY, Prophet (1989) = Gordon Darnell NEWBY, The Making of the Last 
Prophet: A Reconstruction of the Earliest Biography of Muhammad, 
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ORLANDI, Omelie (1981) = Tito ORLANDI, Omelie copte, scelte e tradotte, con una 
introduzione sulla letteratura copta (coll. Corona Patrum, 7), Torino: Societa 
Editrice Internazionale, 1981. 

ORLANDI, "Testo" (1985) = , "Un testo copto sulla dominazione araba in 

Egitto," in Tito ORLANDI and Frederik WISSE (eds.), Acts of the Second 
International Congress of Coptic Studies (Rome, 22-26 September 1980), 
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P AP ADOPOULOS-KER AMEUS, Bibliotheke (1891-1915) = Ath. 
PAPADOPOULOS-KERAMEUS, Ierosolumitike bibliotheke, I V, St. 
Petersburg: B. Kirschbaum, 1891-1915. 

PAPADOPOULOS-KERAMEUS, "Martyrdom" (1907) = , "The 

Martyrdom of the Holy Fathers Who Were Killed by the Barbarians (that is, 
the Saracens) in the Great Laura of Our Blessed Father Sabas" (in Greek), 
Pravoslavnyj Palestinskij Sbornik 57 (1907) 1-41. 

PEETERS, "S. Romain" (1911) = Paul PEETERS, "S. Romain le neomartyr (t 1 mai 780) 
d'apres un document georgien," AB 30 (1911) 393-427. 

PEETERS, "Religion" (1924) = , review of MINGANA, Religion (1923) in 

AB 42 (1924) 200-202. 

PEETERS, "S. Michel" (1930) = , "La passion de S. Michel le Sabaite," 

AB 48 (1930) 65-98. 

PEETERS, "S. Pierre" (1939) = , "La passion de S. Pierre de Capitolias (t 

13 janvier 715)," AB 57 (1939) 299-333. 

PELIKAN, Emergence (1971) = Jaroslav PELIKAN, The Christian Tradition: A 
History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1: The Emergence of the 
Catholic Tradition (100-600), Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1971. 

PELIKAN, Spirit (1974) = , The Christian Tradition: A History of the 

Development of Doctrine, Vol. 2: The Spirit of Eastern Christendom 
(600-1700), Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1974. 

PELLAT, "Croyances" (1967) = Charles PELLAT, "Al-Gahiz: Les nations civilisees et 
les croyances religieuses," J A 225 (1967) 65-105. Reprinted without the 
Arabic text in Charles PELLAT, Etudes sur I'histoire socio-culturelle de 
IT slam (Vlle-XVe s.), London: Variorum Reprints, 1976, article V. 

PELLAT, Jdhiz (1969) = , The Life and Works of Jdhiz: Translations 

of selected texts, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 
1969, pp. 86-91. 

PELLAT, "Christologie" (1970) = , "Christologie Gahizienne," SI 31 (1970) 


PELLAT, "Inventaire" (1984) = , "Nouvel essai d'inventaire de Foeuvre 

Gahizienne," Arabica 31 (1984) 117-64. 


PERIER, "Pisuntios" (1914) = Augustin PERIER, "Lettre de Pisuntios, Eveque de Qeft, 
a ses fideles," ROC 19 (1914) 79-92, 302-23, 445-46. 

PERTUSI, Giorgio di Pisidia (1959) = Agostino PERTUSI (ed. and trans.), Georgio di 
Pisidia: Poemi. I. Panegirici epici (coll. Studia Patristica et Byzantina, 7), 
Ettal: Buch-Kunstverlag Ettal, 1959. 

PIRONE, Eutichio (1987) = Bartolomeo PIRONE (trans.), Eutichio, Partriarca di 
Alessandria (877-940): Gli annali. Introduzione, traduzione e note (coll. 
Studia Orientalia Christiana Monograph iae 1), Cairo: Franciscan Centre of 
Christian Oriental Studies, 1987. 

PLATTI, Yahya ibn 'Adi (1983) = Emilio PLATTI, Yahya ibn 'Adi: Theologien 
Chretien et philosophe arabe (coll. Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta, 14), 
Louvain: Departement Orientalistiek, 1983. 

PLATTI, "Intellect" (1986) = , "Intellect et revelation chez Ibn 'Adi," in 

SAMIR, Deuxieme Congres (1986), 229-34. 

PLATTI, Incarnation (1987) = (ed. and trans.), Abu 'Isd al-Warraq, 

Yahya Ibn 'Adi: De I'Incarnation (coll. CSCO 490-491/ar. 46-47), Louvain: E. 
Peeters, 1987. 

PLATTI, "Objections" (1987-88) = , "Les objections de Abu Isa al-Warraq 

concernant I'Incarnation et les reponses de Yahya ibn 'Adi," Quaderni de 
Studi Arabi 5-6 (1987-88) 661-66. 

PLATTI, "Christ" (1988) = , "Le Christ, deuxieme Adam, dans le Kitdb 

al-burhdn attribue a Yahya ibn 'Adi," in Melanges Antoine Guillaumont: 
Contributions a I'etude des christianismes orientaux (coll. Cahiers 
d'Orientalisme, 20), Geneva: Patrick Cramer Editeur, 1988, pp. 262-70. 

PLATTI, "Doctrine" (1991) = , "La doctrine des chretiennes d'apres Abu 

'Isa al-Warraq," MI DEO 20 (1991), 7-30. 

PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975) = Hans PUTMAN, L'Eglise et I' I slam sous Timothee 
I (780-823) (coll. Recherches ILOB, Nouvelle Serie, B. Orient Chretien, 3) 
Beirut: Dar el-Machreq Editeurs, 1975. [The Arabic text was edited by 
SAMIR Khalil.] 

VON RAD, Theology (1965) = Gerhard VON RAD, Old Testament Theology, I-H, 
Edinburgh: 1965. 


RAISANEN, Jesusbild (1971) = Heikki RAISANEN, Das koranische Jesusbild: Ein 
Beitrag zur Theologie des Korans (coll. Schriften der finnischen Gesellschaft 
fur Missiologie und Okumenik, 20), Helsinki: Finnischen Gesellschaft fur 
Missiologie und Okumenik, 1971. 

RAZI, Tafslr (1933-?) = al-Fahr al-RAZl, al-Tafsir al-kabir, I-III (ed. MUHAMMAD 
MUHYI L-DIN 'ABD AL-HAMID), Cairo: al-Matba'ah al-misriyyah 
(Muhammad Muhammad 'Abd al-Latif), 1352-54/ 1933-35; IV-XX (ed. 'ABD 
AL-RAHMAN MUHAMMAD), Cairo: al-Matba'ah al-bahiyah al-Misriyyah, 
1358/1938; XXI-XXXII (ed. 'ABD AL-RAHMAN MUHAMMAD), Cairo: 
Maktabat 'Abd al-Rahman Muhammad, n.d. 

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Sermons (1981), 279-92. 

WICKHAM, Letters (1983) = (ed. and trans.), Cyril of Alexandria: 

Select Letters (coll. OECT), Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983. 

WILLIAMS, Adversus Judaeos (1935) = A. Lukyn WILLIAMS, Adversus Judaeos: A 
Bird's-Eye View of Christian Apologiae until the Renaissance, Cambridge: 
University Press, 1935. 

WINKELMANN, Konstantin (1975) = Friedhelm WINKELMANN (ed.), Eusebius 
Werke I, 1: Uber das Leben des Kaisers Konstantin (coll. Die griechischen 
christlichen Schriftsteller der ersten Jahrhunderte, Eusebius I, 1), Berlin: 
Akademie-Verlag, 1975. 

WISMER, Jesus (1977) = Don WISMER, The Islamic Jesus: An Annotated 
Bibliography of Sources in English and French, New York and London: 
Garland Pub., 1977. 


ZAYAT, Croix (1935) = Habib ZAYAT, La Croix dans I' I slam (coll. Documents 
Inedits pour servir a l'histoire des patriarcats melkites, 6), Harissa: Imprimerie 
de Saint Paul, 1935. 


Unpublished Sources 


I make no attempt here to give a complete listing of manuscripts, but refer to 
those manuscripts to which I had access and of which I made use. 

Attributed to Theodore ABU QURRAH, "The Dialogue of Abu Qurrah and Muslim 
Scholars before the Caliph al-Ma'mun," in a variety of recensions represented 
by: (a) Borg. ar. 135 (1308 A.D.), ff. 157 v -172 v ; (b) Paris ar. 70 (15th a), 
ff. 147 v -215 r ; (c) Paris ar. 215 (1590), ff. 228 v -260 v ; (d) Mingana syr. 190 (1874 
A.D.), ff. l v -24 r . 

ABU SAKIR al-Nusu' b. Butrus al-Rahib, "The Book of the Demonstration" (Kitab 
al-burhan), Vatican ar. 104 (1282 A.D.). 

'AMR b. Matta (?), 'The Book of the Tower" (Kitab al-magdal), Paris ar. 190 (13th a), 
Vatican ar. 108 (14th a). 

ANONYMOUS, "The Belief of the Orthodox Christians" (l'tiqdd al-Nasara 
al-mustaqim al-amanah), Sinai ar. 453 (12th a), ff. l r -13 v . 

ANONYMOUS, "The Book of the Master and the Pupil" (Kitab al-mu'allim 
wa-l-tilmid) in 10 questions, Sinai ar. 493 (12th a), ff. 177 r -194 r , Sinai ar. 320 
(1236 A.D.), ff. 197 v -216 r . 

ANONYMOUS, "The Commentary on the Creed of the 318 Fathers of the Council of 
Nicea" (Sarh amanat aba' magma' Niqiyyah al-talat mi' ah wa-l-tamaniyata 
'asar), Sbath (Aleppo) 1129 (17th a). 

ANONYMOUS, "The Compilation of the Aspects of the Faith" (al-Gami' wuguh 
al-lmdn), BL or. 4950 (877 A.D.), ff. l r -197 v . 

ANONYMOUS, "On the Sufferings of Our Lord Christ" (Fi alam sayyidina 
al-Maslh), Sinai ar. 553 (1182 A.D.), ff. 30 v -39 v . 

ANONYMOUS, "Questions and Rational and Divine Responses" (Masa'il wa-agwibah 
'aqliyyah wa-ildhiyyah), Sinai ar. 434 (1138 A.D.), ff. 171 r -181 v . 

ANONYMOUS, "The Refutation of the One Who Denies the Crucifixion" (al-Radd 
'aid man gahad al-salbut), Vatican ar. 107 (15th a), ff. 106 r -107 v . 


Attributed to St. EPHRAIM, "Questions Asked by Ibrahim of his Uncle, the Teacher 
Mar Afram," Sinai ar. 513 (10th a), ff. 226 r -244 r . 

EUSTATHIUS the monk, "The Book of Eustathius" (Kitab Ustat), Mingana chr. ar. 52 
(1876 A.D.). 

Attributed to the Coptic patriarch JOHN, "The Debate of the Patriarch John," Paris 
ar. 215, ff. 186 r -202 v . 

Attributed to St. JOHN of Edessa, "The Dialogue of St. John of Edessa and the Jew 
Finhas at the Court of Harun al-Rasid," Sinai ar. 411 (1286 A.D.), ff. 191 r -198 r . 

SAWlRUS b. al-Muqaffa', "The Book of the Explanation, in Summary of the Faith" 
(Kitab al-bayan al-muhtasar fi l-imdn), Vatican ar. 138 (13th/14th a). 

THADDEUS of Edessa, "The Book of the Master and the Pupil" (Kitab al-mu'allim 
wa-l-tilmid) in 43 chapters, Sinai ar. 494 (12th a), 495 (1022 A.D.), and 499 
(11th a). 

Chapter One 

Introduction and Orientation 

The present study is an attempt to describe the earliest Arabic 
Christian-Muslim controversy over the crucifixion of Christ in a thematically and 
narratively coherent way. One result of this attempt is that citations from one and 
the same author, and often one and the same text, will be scattered throughout the 
study. This first chapter is an attempt to compensate for later dispersal of material by 
offering a brief overview of the sources. Specialists in Arabic Christian and Islamic 
studies will thus be able to see quickly which authors and texts I have taken into 
account, and how I have dealt with those questions of provenance, authenticity, date, 
and so on, for which no scholarly consensus yet exists. Interested non-specialists may 
find some guidance to the most important primary and secondary literature. To most 
readers, however, I would recommend leaving this chapter for later reference, and 
beginning immediately with Chapter Two. 

The Arabic apologetic and polemical texts of the eighth and ninth Christian 
centuries have been surveyed a number of times. The "Bibliographic du dialogue 
islamo-chretien''^ 1 ' published since 1975 in installments in the journal I slamochristiana 
represents the most ambitious recent attempt to systematically list both Christian and 
Muslim texts/ 2 ) For the Christian material, Georg Grafs Geschichte der christlichen 
arabischen Literatur (GCAL) remains the basic reference work despite the fact that it 
is now nearly fifty years old. Its information concerning texts of the eighth and ninth 
Christian centuries is corrected and updated by a number of recent works, notably 
Joseph Nasrallah's survey of the Arabic Melkite literature of the period/ 3 ' and 
Benedicte Landron's study of Arabic Nestorian apologetic and polemical literature/ 4 ' 
Mention should also be made of Rachid Haddad's dissertation on the doctrine of the 
Trinity in ancient Arabic Christian theology/ 5 ' in which he brought to light a number 
of previously unstudied texts and shed new light on under-studied ones. On the 
Muslim side, by far the best recent survey is Abdelmajid Charfi's Arabic dissertation/ 6 ' 

L ISCH, "Bibliographie." 

2. In addition, a helpful introduction to a number of these texts is GAUDEUL, Encounters (1984). 

3. NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988). 

4. LANDRON, "Apologetique" (1978). 

5. HADDAD, Trinite (1985), the publication of a dissertation submitted in 1974. 

6. CHARFI, Radd (1986). See also ANAWATI, "Polemique" (1969), 379-415, and BOUAMAMA, 
Litterature (1988). 



It is not my intention in this chapter to gather together and update all the 
information contained in these surveys, so as to produce a new bibliography of 
eighth- and ninth-century Arabic Christian and Islamic controversial texts. That will 
be a task for others.* 7 ) My purpose here is the limited one of listing, thoroughly but 
concisely, those Arabic sources important to the theme of the present essay. 

The sources are listed by author, where known. Brief bibliographies are given, 
including: (a) references to the text(s) in the general surveys mentioned above, (b) 
references to convenient lists and descriptions of manuscripts, (c) the best editions and 
translations of texts, and (d) the secondary literature most helpful for their study. 
These bibliographies are not intended to be exhaustive, but rather as keys to the study 
of the texts. A few remarks are offered on questions of authenticity, authorship, and 
date where unclear or disputed. Finally, the texts or passages relevant to the present 
study are listed and very briefly described. 

Christian and Islamic materals are listed separately. Within each section the 
sources are grouped into categories giving some sense of the shape of the literature, 
which in turn are arranged in rough chronological order. 


A. The Earliest Witnesses: Arabic Christian Apologetics in the Eighth Century 

While the origins of an Arabic Christian churchly literature are shrouded in 
mystery/ 8 ) the oldest texts which we possess come from the second half of the eighth 
Christian century and belong to the "Ancient South Palestinian" archive of translations 
and original works produced in the Melkite monasteries of Palestine and Sinai.w The 
earliest unambiguous date that we have for the production of an Arabic Christian text 
is Rabi' I, 155 H. = February/March 772, which is when "The Story of the Holy 
Fathers Killed at Sinai and Ra'yalV'no) was translated from Greek into Arabic, 
according to colophons preserved in BL or. 5019 and Sinai ar. 542.< n > A work which 
will be discussed below, Fl tat lit Allah al-wahid ("On the Triune God") of Sinai ar. 

7. Plans for a "revised Graf" continue to be made. See SAMIR, "Nouvelle histoire" (1982). For the 
time being, bibliographical updates for the Christian materials are provided in the Bulletin d'Arabe 
Chretien! Bibliographie des auteurs Arabes Chretiens, edited by Emilio Platti. 

8. Debate has been sharp over the issue of whether written Arabic translations of the scriptures 
existed before the rise of Islam. For orientation, see SAMIR, "Turat" (1982) 10-13, or GRIFFITH, 
"Gospel" (1985) 153-58. 

9. "Ancient South Palestinian" (ASP) is a technical term coined by Joshua Blau. See BLAU, 
Grammar (1966-67), esp. I, 21-33 which is practically a catalogue of the works of the ASP archive. 
Sidney Griffith has devoted a great deal of attention to this archive; see, for example, GRIFFITH, 
"Kerygma" (1985), "Arabic" (1986), "Monks" (1988), and "Anthony David" (1989). 

10. GCAL [, 520; NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 166-67. 

11. For the text of the colophons, see GRIFFITH, "Account" (1985), 337-39. 


154, is the oldest dated original Arabic Christian composition that has been preserved. 
Unfortunately its date requires some interpretation, but it corresponds at the latest to 
ca. 788.02) 

Of course, Arabic-language conversations on religious matters had been taking 
place between Christians and Muslims before the end of the eighth century, as is 
reflected in a number of Greek and Syriac texts. The famous Chapter 100/101 of the 
Liber de haeresibus of John of Damascus (d. ca. 750) alludes to such conversations 
and displays a fair knowledge of Islam/ 13 ) Several texts take the literary form of a 
debate between a Christian and a Muslim. For two of these debates the Muslim 
interlocutor may be identified: the Syriac account of a discussion which took place in 
644 between the Syrian patriarch John and "the emir of the Hagarenes," who may be 
identified as 'Umayr b. Sa'd, governor of Hims/ 1 o and the conversations of the 
Nestorian catholicos Timothy I (catholicos 780-823) with the Abbasid caliph al-Mahdi 
(caliph 775-85), of which he provided a Syriac "transcript" in a letter to the priest 
Sargls/ 15 ) In other instances the Muslim interlocutor is described but cannot be 
precisely identified, as in the Syriac text of a dispute between a monk of Beit-Hale 
and a follower of the emir Maslamah (d. 738V 16 ) or Timothy's Syriac report of his 
debate with a Muslim Aristotelian philosopher/ 17 ) In other texts the Muslim 
interlocutor is not named or described at all, as in the (Syriac) controversy of the 
Jacobite stylite John of Litarba (d. ca. 737-38) and an unnamed "opponent,"* 18 ) or the 
(Greek) dialogue between a Christian and a "Saracen" traditionally attributed to John 

12. See below, p. 5. 

13. Ed. K.OTTER, Liber (1981), 60-67, and see SAHAS, Heresy (1970) for a study and ET. 

14. Ed. and trans. NAU, "Colloque" (1915). The "emir," named by Syriac chronicles as '"Amru" bar Sa'd, 
has been identified as 'Umayr b. Sa'd al-Ansari in CRONE/COOK, Hagarism (1977), 162 (note 11), 
and in SAMIR, "Interlocuteur" (1984). 

15. See below, pp. 6—8. 

16. This dispute is preserved in a single manuscript, Diyarbakir 95, now at the episcopal residence in 
Mardin. For a few snippets of information about the work see CRONE/COOK, Hagarism (1977), 
12-13, 17-18, 163 (note 23). In 1984 JAGER ("Intended Edition" (1987)) announced that he was 
preparing an edition. 

17. Ed. and FT: H. CHEIKHO, Dialectique (1983). Another ed. and ET is the unpublished M.A. thesis 
of Thomas R. HURST: "Letter 40 of the Nestorian Patriarch Timothy I (727-823): an Edition and 
Translation," Washington, D.G: the Catholic University of America, 1981. 

Cheikho has some doubts about the historicity of the debate. 'It could be that Timothy, 
desiring to write on the theme of language about God, invented this personage so that his treatise 
would be read by Christians and by Muslims, especially those of the court with whom our 
patriarch had friendly relations." H. CHEIKHO, Dialectique (1983), 59. 

18. Ed. and FT: SUERMANN, "Johannan" (1988-89), and see also his "Controverse" (1989). 


of Damascus/ 19 ^ In the tenth chapter of Theodore bar Konfs Scholion (which can be 
dated no later than the end of the eighth century), a debate between a Christian and a 
Muslim is concealed behind the form of a dialogue between a teacher (malpana) and 
a student (eskolydn)S 2 °) Whatever doubts we may have as to whether or not a 
particular dialogue actually took, place as reported, there can be no doubt that these 
texts reflect Christian experience of conversation with Muslims, and present what the 
writers think, ought to have been said. 

Two works will be described below: Fl tat lit Allah al-wahid of Sinai ar. 154, 
a rich and appealing text from the earliest years of Christian apologetic production in 
Arabic/ 21 ) and the dialogue of the catholicos Timothy with the caliph al-Mahdi, an 
outstanding early apology which, although first circulated in Syriac, came to play an 
important role in the shaping of the Arabic Christian apologetic repertory. 

1. "On the Triune God" (Fi tat lit Allah al-wahid) 
Selected Literature: 

GCAL II, 27-28 (#6). ISCH, "Bibliographic" 12.4. HADDAD, Trinite (1985), 52-53. 
NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 145-46 (#5). 


Sinai Arabic 154, ff. 99 r -139 v , is the sole known manuscript of the work. It is 
described in SAMIR, "Apology" (1990). 

Editions, translation 

GIBSON, Treatise (1899), 74*-107* [ET 2-36]. A new (corrected and more complete) 
edition of the work is being prepared by Samir Khalil SAMIR. 

Additional studies 

SAMIR, "Apology" (1990). Idem, "Apologie" (1990-91). 

19. Ed. and ET: SAHAS, Heresy (1970), 99-122, 142-55. See also A.-T. KHOURY, Theologiens (1969), 

20. Ed. SCHER, Bar Konl (1910-12), II, 231-84 [FT HESPEL/DRAGUET, Scolies (1981-82), II, 172-2101 
See also GRIFFITH, "Chapter 10" (1981), where a discussion of the date of the Scholion is found at 
pp. 161-64. I suspect that the date of 1103 an. Graec. (= 791-92 A.D.) given in some manuscripts is 
the date of a copy rather than the date of the work's composition, for which it therefore gives us 
no more than a terminus ad quem. 

21. If the date of 788 A.D. for this text is correct, it could be that some of Theodore Abu Qurrah's 
earliest compositions, such as his "On the Existence of the Creator and the True Religion" (see 
below, p. 12), are older still. 


This magnificent work, addressed to Muslims and written in beautiful language 
that evokes the Qur'an without ever falling into slavish imitation, was misleadingly 
named Fi tat lit Allah al-wa.hid.rOn the Triune Nature of God by its first editor. 
While for the sake of convenience I shall continue to use Mrs. Gibson's Arabic title 
(with my own English translation), in fact the work is an apology for the veracity of 
Christianity, with an emphasis on christology. 

The date of the apology is given in a passage discovered by Samir, which 
reads: "If this religion were not truly from God, it would not have been established 
(lam yatbut) and would not have stood (lam yaqum [sic]) for seven hundred and 
forty-six years."( 22 > The text poses a riddle: which event in the New Testament 
narrative is to be understood as the "establishment" of "this religion"? A plausible 
hypothesis is that it corresponds to the "disestablishment" of the religion of Judaism, 
which, for reasons that will be presented below/ 23 ) is an event most probably 
coinciding with the crucifixion of Christ. If this is understood to have taken place on 
March 23, 42 A.D. (in accordance with the chronological framework of the 
Alexandrian world era of Annianos)/ 24 ' a date of 788 A.D. results for the composition 
of the apology. 

For the purposes of this study, two passages are especially significant: 

1. Sinai ar. 154, ff. 102 v -109 r ( 25 > deals at considerable length with humankind's 
fall under the dominion of Satan and its redemption through the Incarnation 
of Christ. The cross is mentioned briefly, but centrally, at ff. 107 v -108 r .( 26 > 

2. ff. 137 v -139 v ( 27 > deals specifically with the cross: its predictions and types 
in the Old Testament, and the cross as the sign of Christ at his parousia. 

22. iu. c— } Ll- ii-. Jul. pjL ^ 3 c,.^ ^ <<i»l "j>- jjjJl iIa jiL ^ jij, f. 110 v /12— 14. 

23. In the discussion of al-Gami' wuguh al-lman, below, p. 35. 

24. For evidence supporting the plausibility of this assumption, see SWANSON, "Dating" (1992). For 
another possibility, see SAMIR, "Apologie" (1990-91) where it is suggested that the apology might 
date from as early as 738 A.D., assuming (a) that the "establishment of Christianity" corresponds to 
the Incarnation of Christ (b) as calculated according to the Melkite Era of the Incarnation. 

25. GIBSON, Treatise (1899), 78*-85* [ET 6-12]. 

26. Ibid., 84* [ET 121 

27. Passage not edited by Gibson. 


2. The Dialogue of the Catholicos Timothy I (780-823) 
and the Caliph al-Mahdi (775-85) 

Selected Literature: 

GCAL II, 114-18 (#2, with extensive bibliography also with respect to the Syriac 
original). ISCH, "Bibliographic" 12.5, 17.8. LANDRON, "Apologetique" (1978), 72-84. 
HADDAD, Trinite (1985), 30-32. 


See GCAL II, 116-118; mention of additional MSS and a proposed stemma in CASPAR, 
"Versions" (1977), 112-13. 

Editions, translations 

(Original) Syriac text: MINGANA, "Apology" (1928) [photographic reproduction of 

Mingana syr. 17 and ET]. 
Syriac precis: VAN ROEY, "Apologetique" (1946) [ed. and LT from Paris syr. 306]. 
Arabic precis in 27 questions: CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 107-75 [ed. and FT from 

Paris ar. 82 (base); Paris ar. 215; Beirut, Bib.Or. 548; Jerusalem, Holy Sepulchre 101]. 
Longer Arabic version: PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975) [ed. and FT from Beirut Bib. 

Or. 6221 

Additional studies 

BIDAWID, Lettres (1966).< 28 ) 

In 781 or 782 the Nestorian catholicos Timothy held a lengthy theological 
discussion in Arabic with the Abbasid caliph al-Mahdi, and sometime between 786 and 
795 he sent a Syriac report of this encounter to the priest Sargis/ 29 ) It was not long 
before Timothy's discussion, preserved in a Syriac report, commenced its return into 
Arabic. Passages from the discussion appear in the frera-recension of the Arabic 
dialogue of Ibrahim al-Tabaram, for which the manuscript evidence reaches back to 
the tenth century/ 30 ) At some point -- we do not know when - an Arabic resume of 
the discussion in the form of twenty-seven "questions" was made, of which the oldest 
copy known, Paris ar. 82 (ff. 73 r -94 v ), dates to the 14th century/ 3 ') Two other 
recensions are found in Paris ar. 215, an Egyptian manuscript written in 1590: one 

28. I have not seen the Ph.D. dissertation of Thomas R. HURST: "The Syriac Letters of Timothy I 
(727-823): a Study in Christian-Muslim Controversy," Washington, D.C: the Catholic University of 
America, 1986. 

29. On these dates see PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 184-85, CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 116-17, and 
the literature cited there. The date 781 or 782 presupposes the essential authenticity of the debate. 
If the work had its genesis in the patriarch's study, as Nau believed (NAU, "Compte-rendu" (1929)), 
it would probably have been written after the accession of Harun al-Rasid in 786. 

30. See below, pp. 26-28. 

31. Ed. and FT: CASPAR, "Versions" (1977). 


quite faithful to the Syriac original, although presented in the form of thirty-four 
questions asked by the caliph al-Ma'mun of Abu Qurrah (!),( 32 > and one loosely based 
on the dialogue, in twelve questions asked by the caliph al-Mahdl of "the catholicos."( 33 > 
In relatively recent times a much fuller and more literal Arabic translation of the 
original Syriac report was made/ 34 ) 

Since the only recension of the text which clearly comes from the period 
under study here is the Syriac text, it may seem strange to have it included in the 
present list. Given, however, the probability that the Syriac text reflects an Arabic 
"oral original," and the fact that it quickly began to influence Arabic apologetic texts, 
I have decided to include it in this list of Arabic works. The Syriac text of Timothy's 
dialogue and its Arabic recensions offer us a precious record of how Christians in the 
closing decades of the eighth century defended their faith - or how they thought they 
should have defended their faith -- in Arabic conversations with Muslims. Therefore 
they merit inclusion here. 

One lengthy passage of the dialogue is of special relevance to the present 
study, and is outlined below/ 35 ) 

L Why do Christians prostrate themselves to the cross? (113/1/4 :: 175-82 :: 29) 

2. Did Christ die on the cross? 

(a) Can God die? (113/2/18 :: 183-85 :: -) 

(b) The Qur'an on the death of Christ. al-Mahdi: al-Nisa' (4):157! 
Timothy: Al 'Imrdn (3):55, Maryam (19)33! (114/1/4 :: 186-90 :: 30) 

(c) Old Testament prophecies of the crucifixion. (114/1/21 :: 191-98 :: 31) 

(d) The issue of tasblh. (114/2/16 :: 199-202 :: 32) 

(e) Was not Christ too highly honored to be crucified? Christ's 
freely-chosen death. (115/2/1 :: 203-6 :: 33) This leads directly to: 

3. Christ's freely willed death and the guilt of his Jewish crucifiers 

(a) al-Mahdl: No blame to the Jews! Timothy: Look to their 
intentions! (116/1/8 :: 207-9 :: 34) 

32. ff. 122 r -154 r . See GCAL II, 117-18 (c). 

33. ff. 176 v -185 r . See GCAL II, 118 (d), and CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 110-11. 

34. Ed. and FT: PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975). Immediately after the title in the copy 
of the text preserved in Beirut, Bib. Or. 662 (ca. 1900), we read: 5 UjJL> q, ♦,■>■ y jJ . . . 
i-jjjjl *-r J 'L;j — J-» ("• • ■ which was translated recently from Syriac into 
Arabic"); ibid., 7*. 

35. References are made to: page/column/line number of the Syriac text as reproduced by 
Mingana; then, after the double colon, to the numbered versets in the 
translation/edition of Putman/Samir; finally, again after a double colon, to the 
numbered paragraphs in the edition and translation of Caspar. 


(b) The dilemma: Was it Christ's will to be crucified, or not? If Christ 
willed to be crucified, the Jews should not be blamed. If he did not so will, 
he was weak. (116/1/21 :: 210 :: 35a) 

(c) Counter-questions #1 and 2: Satan's rebellion, Adam's expulsion from 
Paradise. Application. (116/2/10 :: 211-216 :: 35b) 

(d) Counter-question #3: the warrior killed in gihad. (117/2/15 :: - :: 36a) 

(e) Christ's freedom, the salvific necessity of his death. 
(118/1/15 :: - :: 36b-37a) 

(f) Counter-(example) #4: Joseph sold by his brothers. 
(119/2/2 :: - :: 37b) 

(g) Counter-question #5: the palace destroyed by an enemy. 
(119/2/19 :: - :: 38) 

In addition, there are a number of brief references to the death of Christ 
elsewhere in the dialogue. Note may be made of the following passages: 

1. In defending the Christian scriptures against the charge of falsification, 
Timothy argues that if the Christians had made changes in their scriptures, 
they would have changed the things considered "unworthy," such as Christ's 
growth in stature and wisdom; his food, drink, and weariness; his anger, 
ignorance, and prayer; and his suffering, crucifixion, and burial. 
(130/1/14 :: 265 :: -) 

2. In the course of his famous response to al-Mahdi's question "What do you 
say about Muhammad?" (133/1/16 :: 158-68 :: 46-50) Timothy explained that 
just as God gave victory to Muhammad over the Persians because of their 
idolatry, He gave him victory over the Byzantines because they ascribed 
suffering and death to God in the flesh. (134/2/5 :: 167 :: 49) 

3. According to the Syriac text, Timothy returns to intra-Christian polemic 
at the end of the dialogue, rejecting the (Melkite and Jacobite) statement that 
"God suffered and died in the flesh" and eliciting the caliph's judgement that 
in this matter the Nestorian doctrine (that "it is the human nature which God 
the Word put on from us that suffered and died") is closer to the truth. 
(159/1/17 :: - :: -) 


B. Three Christian Mutakallims of the Early Ninth Century 

We now turn our attention now to three of the earliest and most creative of 
the Christian mutakallimun, i.e. those apologists who engaged, from the Christian side, 
in the Arabic theological discourse which the Muslims called kalam. In an 
"ecumenically" gratifying way they represent each of the major Christian confessions 
found in the Dar al-lslam: Theodore Abu Qurrah was a Melkite, Hablb b. Hidmah 
Abu Ra'itah a Jacobite, and 'Ammar al-Basr! a Nestorian. Together their careers span 
a half-century, from the end of the 8th century to the year 838 and perhaps beyond. 

L Theodore Abu Qurrah (ca. 755? - ca. 830?) 
Selected Literature: 

GCAL [I, 7-26. ISCH, "Bibliographic" 12.8 (and 13.6, 16.1). HADDAD, Trinite (1985), 
53-55. NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 104-34. 


See NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 117-24, and add three of the newly discovered 
manuscripts at St. Catherine's monastery in Sinai: Sinai ar. NF perg. 12 and 19, and NF 
pap. 4 (MEIMARES, Catalogue (1985), 22* 25* 39*). 

Editions, translations 

"Chapters on Prostration to the Icons": ARENDZEN, Libellus (1897) [ed. and LT from 

BL or. 4950]. GRAF, Abu Qurra (1910), 278-333 [GT of Arendzen's ed.]. DICK, 

Icones (1986) [new ed. from BL or. 4950 and Sinai ar. 330]. Sidney GRIFFITH'S 

ET and Paola PIZZO's IT will soon be published. 
Ten treatises: BACHA, Mayamir (1904) [ed. from Saint-Sauveur N.C 392]. BACHA, 

Traite (1905) [FT of "On the Law and the Gospel and the Chalcedonian Faith"]. 

GRAF, Abu Qurra (1910), 88-277 [GT of Bacha's ed.]. 
"On the Existence of the Creator and the True Religion": CHEIKHO, "Wugud" (1912) 

[ed. from Dayr al-Sir 3731 GRAF, Traktat (1913) [GT of Cheikho's ed.]. DICK, 

Createur (1982) [new ed. from Dayr al-Sir 373, with an extensive introduction on 

the author's life and work]. 
Two treatises: DICK, "Ecrits" (1959) 53-67 [ed. and FT of the "Confession" of Sinai ar. 

549 and 561, and of the "Apology" of Sinai ar. 447]. 
"On Christ's Freely Chosen Death": GRIFFITH, "Sayings" (1979) [ed. and ET from Sinai 

ar. 72]. SAMIR, "Salb" (1984) [new ed. from Sinai ar. 72]. 

Additional studies 

GRAF, Abu Qurra (1910), 1-87. RIVIERE, "Precurseur" (1914). DICK, "Continuateur" 
(1963). GRIFFITH, Theology (1978). Idem, "Tract" (1985). SAMIR,"Abu Qurrah," (1984). 
Idem, "Litterature" (1990), 476-81. GRIFFITH, "Faith" (1990). 

Theodore Abu Qurrah, monk, of the monastery of Mar Saba and later Melkite 
bishop of Harran, has the greatest reputation of all the Christian apologists studied 


here. Of great reknown in the East for his skill in controversy with Muslims,* 36 ) 
thanks to Greek translations/adaptations of some of his writings* 37 ) he is the one 
major Christian apologist of this study who has enjoyed some name-recognition in the 
West. In the course of a literary career which may have begun as early as the 780's 
and have extended into and beyond the 820's, he wrote a number of treatises which 
deal in part or in whole with the crucifixion and death of Christ. These are grouped 
below by theme: 

1. The treatise "Chapters on Prostration to the Icons"* 38 ) is a response to 
accusations of idolatry by Jews and Muslims. A number of passages deal in 
some way with the crucifixion of Christ:* 39 ) 

(a) Ch. 2, on the foolishness of the chief articles of Christian faith in the 
eyes of non-believers [280-81]. 

(b) Ch. 16, #17-22, the story of the picture of the crucified Christ which 
the Jews of Tiberias had made [3141. 

(c) and especially Ch. 24, on the veneration of the icon of the crucified 
Christ [330-33].*"°) 

2. The content of the treatise that, for convenience, I call "On the Necessity 
of Redemption"* 41 ) is summarized in the title given it in the manuscript: "A 
treatise concerning the fact that no one is forgiven his sin except through the 
pains of Christ, which came upon him for the sake of the people; and that 
whoever does not believe in these pains and offer them to the Father for his 
trespasses will never have forgiveness of his trespasses."* 42 ) The treatise is 
written specifically with Muslims in mind, and aims to convince them of the 

36. For the text alleged to be a description of his debate at the court of al-Ma'mun, see 
below, pp. 28-30. Abu Qurrah's reputation as a debater with Muslims was such that 
the debates of other Christian apologists came to be ascribed to him. Thus Abu 
Qurrah displaces the catholicos Timothy in Paris ar. 215 (1590 A.D.), ff. 122 r — 154 r , and 
Ibrahim al-Tabarani in Sbath 1004 (18th a). 

37. Ed. and LT: PG 94, 1586-95; 96, 1336-48; 97, 1469-1609. 

38. j^D ij^J\ J jA-a. GCAL II, 13-14 (#11); NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 117-18 (#1). 
Ed. DICK, Icdnes (1986) [GT (of Arendzen's edition) GRAF, Abu Qurra (1910), 278-333]. 

39. The divisions are those of Dick's modern edition. The corresponding pages of Graf's 
German translation are added at the end of the line in square brackets. 

40. Other references to the cross are found at Ch. 1, #2 [278-79], Ch. 7, #5 [288], and Ch. 8, 
#17 [291]. 

4L GCAL II, 13 (#5); NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 119 (#2f). Ed. BACHA, Maydmir (1904), 
83-91 [GT GRAF, Abu Qurra (1910), 169-77; FT (extracts) RIVIERE, "Precurseur" (1914)]. 
Following the example of DICK (Createur (1982), xv-xxi and 64-73), I will frequently 
abbreviate or paraphrase the lengthy titles of Abu Qurrah's treatises. 

42. ^ jj> o'j i,yl-Jl u'ui ^ o cAa- ^Jl t^. ... . ll ^L>./l, H\ A^JaJ- x>>i jjJ^ ^ 4J* j^j> 


necessity of the redemptive death of one who was truly God. 

Parallels to and occasional amplifications of the material in this 
treatise are found in: 

(a) The treatises "On the Possibility of the Incarnation"* 43 ) and "On the 
Divinity of the Son"* 44 ), which together with "On the Necessity of 
Redemption" form a linked apologetic set. 

(b) Abu Qurrah's Nestorian- and Jacobite-directed defences of the 
Chalcedonian conception of the death of Christ, especially his "On the Death 
of Christ,"* 45 ^ with a number of parallels in "The Letter to David the 
Jacobite."* 46 ) In these treatises, Abu Qurrah attempts to demonstrate that 
the Nestorian and Jacobite christologies as applied to the death of Christ are 
soteriologically inadequate. 

(c) Other material pertinent to Abu Qurrah's apologetic doctrine of 
redemption is to be found scattered in the Greek opuscula attributed to him. 
Of particular relevance is the compilation of "Abu Qurran" material preserved 
as opusculum 1, "The Five Enemies from which the Savior Delivered Us,"* 47 ) 

43. ^ J^Lv ^ 4j'j iut t-i J>^ U-i J>L>Jlj J— *wJl & ^ ^Lf. 3j\ 

• L ll 4— _j-L>- 4.1 j."—.; la « ll ^>y jj> i^'uJl J >Jl ("A treatise responding 

to the one who denies the possibility of God's Incarnation and dwelling in whatever 
creature He likes; and that His dwelling in the body taken from Mary the Purified is 
analogous to his being seated upon the throne in heaven"). GCAL II, 13 (#6); 
NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 120 (#2j). Ed. BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 180-86 [GT 
GRAF, Abu Qurra (1910), 178-184]; see especially 184-85 [182-831 

44. Jyj qj } lt* < - ) ' -r*-r* C"A treatise confirming that God has 
a consubstantial and co-eternal Son"). GCAL II, 13 (#7); NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 
119 (#2g). Ed. BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 91-104 [GT GRAF, Abu Qurra (1910), 184-98]; 
see especially pp. 98-104 [192-98]. 

45. jj> }j) j^J\ ^Jj^l Jj^\ ji Jj^j UJi t ll* oL> Jl ji Li* I ii U' j J I o y. ^ j— r* 

treatise on the death of Christ, that when we say 'Christ died for us' we mean that that 
the eternal Son begotten of the Father before the ages is the one who died for us, not 
in his divine nature but in his human nature, and how this death is to be conceived, 
and that it is appropriate that the eternal Son be spoken of in the way in which 

Orthodoxy speaks of him"). GCAL II, 13 (#8); NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 118-19 
(#2c). Ed. BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 48-70 [GT GRAF, Abu Qurra, (1910) 198-223]. 

y+J\ 4_J_£- ("A letter answering a question, which the sainted Abu Qurrah wrote to a 
friend who had been a lacobite, but who became Orthodox upon receipt of Abu 
Qurrah's answer"). GCAL II, 13 (#10); NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 119-20 (#2h). Ed. 
BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 104-39 [GT GRAF, Abu Qurra (1910), 239-77]; see especially 
pp. 120-21 [256-57], 137-38 [274-75]. 
47. Ed. and LT: PG 97, 1461-70. On this work as an awkward but forward-pointing 
compilation dependent on Abu Qurrah's genuine writings, see RIVIERE, "Precurseur" 



viz. death, the Devil, the curse of the Law and damnation, sin, and hell/ 48 ' 

3. In his treatises devoted to demonstrating the truth of the Christian 
religion, Abu Qurrah frequently uses the crucifixion of the Son of God to 
stress the scandalous nature of Christian belief and practice. Then the 
fact of Christianity's spread, in spite of the scandal, points to its divine 
character and origin. The following treatises may be noted: 

(a) The Appendix (Ch. 16) to "On the Existence of the Creator, and the 
True Religion."("9) 

(b) "On the Confirmation of the Gospel."( 50 > 

(c) Sharing many features with these two Arabic treatises is Abu 
Qurrah's Greek opusculum 21, "That Christian Teaching is Confirmed through 
the Preaching of Those of No Account," in the form of a dialogue with a 
Muslim mutakallim.w It was probably translated from an Arabic original. 
A Georgian translation also exists.^ 52 ) 

(d) The first part of "On the Law and the Gospel and the Chalcedonian 
Faith"*") is a discussion of the truth of the Christian faith addressed to Jews. 
It contains a number of arguments parallel to those found in the works listed 
above (a-c). 

(1914), 350-60, where a number of extracts in French are found. 

48. See also op. 7, "The Struggle of Christ with the Devil" (ed. and LT: PG 97, 1523-28) 
and op. 41, "What is Death, and How has Death Been Put to Death?" (ed. and LT: 
PG 97, 1597-1600). 

49. ^jJJl ^jJIj jJUJl ^i. GCAL II, 14-15 (#12); NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 
120-22 (#3). Ed. DICK, Createur (1982), 259-70 [GT (of Cheikho's edition) GRAF, 
Traktat (1913), 58-661 

50. JJsL, j-i-> J-H^V 1 ^ JS d'j tJ-j^j'Vl J^jLhJ J..--- ("A treatise on the 
confirmation of the Gospel, and that everything that does not confirm the Gospel is 
void"). GCAL II, 12 (#2); NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 119 (#2d). Ed. BACHA, 
Mayamir (1904), 71-75 [FT BACHA, "Traite" (1905); GT GRAF, Abu Qurra (1910), 
128-33]; see especially pp. 73-75 [GT 130-33]. 

51. Ed. and LT: PG 97, 1547-52 [French summary in A.-T. KHOURY, Theologiens (1969), 

52. See ISCH, "Bibliographie" 16.1.2 (d) (in ISCH 6 (1980), 291). 

53. i^JJl ytUaJl Je^V 1 i gr* * ^ <J^ ' ) [ ~' Cri^ jl } ^.JLLJl <j- y\l J^>^> u* y^* 
^LJl Lfr-..,;j ^1 iLS-> rJ ^\ Jr^J 4*lj-L*Jl »ty y syyJ\ £~~J! i-.^ 4JiJ 
4-1,. J I 4 Jla ,_g^_» : ll Jj^sjS iL Ji" JlL-<ij li-JjJL-. £_LjJl ^jJi ("A treatise on the 
confirmation of the holy Law of Moses and the prophets who prophesied Christ and 
the pure Gospel, which the disciples of Christ, born of the virgin Mary, transmitted to 
the nations; and the confirmation of the Orthodoxy which people call Chalcedonian, 
and the invalidation of any religious community professing to be Christian other than 
that community"). GCAL II, 11-12 (#1); NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 120 (#2i). Ed. 
BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 140-79 [FT BACHA, Traite (1905); GT GRAF, Abu 
Qurra (1910), 88-128]. 


4. The ninth-century manuscript Sinai ar. 72 preserves Abu Qurrah's Arabic 
response -- we may call it "On Christ's Freely Chosen Death" -- to the 
dilemma question: did Christ die of his own will? If so, what of the 
culpability of the Jews?< 54 > The same matter is found in the Greek 
opusculum 9< 55 ' and also in Georgian translation/ 56 ) 

5. Finally, there are some treatises attributed to Abu Qurrah in the 
manuscript Sbath 1324 (1773 A.D.), the whereabouts of which, unfortunately, 
do not seem to be known/ 57 ) 

(a) The first treatise is a set of eight questions and answers from an 
encounter between Abu Qurrah and a group of Muslims at the Holy 
Sepulchre in Jerusalem/ 58 ) While the setting is suggestive, for the moment 
the content of the discussion is not known. 

(b) The second treatise is entitled 'The response to those who say that 
Christians believe in a weak God, because they say that Christ is God, and 
that he was slapped, beaten, crucified, died, and rose."< 59 ) This probably has 
much in common with the treatises listed under number 3 above. 

(c) The fourth is entitled "On the Confirmation of the Christian 
Religion,"( 6 °) which may be identical to one of the treatises mentioned above 
under number 3. 

(d) The fifth and sixth treatises are collections of prophesies concerning 
the Incarnation and the earthly career of Christ, including his passion, death, 
burial, and resurrection. The first of these collections is probably addressed to 

54. ajL^-L, oU £_~Jl 'o' ^ J^i (Nasrallah's title). NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 122 (#5). 
Ed. and ET: GRIFFITH, "Sayings" (1979); revised ed.: SAMIR, "Salb" (1984). 

55. Ed. and LT: PG 97, 1529-30 (#9) [ET GRIFFITH, Theology (1978), 541 

56. See ISCH, "Bibliographie" 16.1.4 (in ISCH 6 (1980) 291). 

57. For the list of these treatises in SBATH, Bibliotheque (1928-34), III, 115-17, recopied in 
SAMIR, "Abu Qurrah" (1984) 146-47, or NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 122-23 (#6.A). 

58. j-JljJl ^^llo^l jj«I> '-i^r'i J-5L— • ("Questions and answers to defamation (?), against 
the outsiders"). Sbath 1324, pp. 201-11. 

59. (_> jj> j pJaJ Aj\ t j 4Ajl — Jl jj j j)j*t tijujw* «Jb O yJ> y m ^jLflJl b\ j jij^-i u^f >J 

(li, uL.j ^Cj. Sbath 1324, pp. 212-16. 

60. ^jLaJI jji j-2>J, ^ iJLL. Sbath 1324, pp. 220-22. 


Muslims,' 61 ) while the second is an anti-Jewish polemic/ 62 ' 

2. Habib b. Hidmah Abu Ra'itah (floruit ca. 815-28) 
Selected Literature: 

GCAL II, 222-26. ISCH, "Bibliographic" 12.6. HADDAD, Trinite (1985), 55-57. 

See GRAF, Abu Ra'ita (1951), ii-v (of text volume). 
Editions, translations 

GRAF, Abu Ra'ita (1951) [ed. and GT of all known works]. SAMIR, "Creation" (1989), 
199-215 [new ed. and FT of a passage from "On the Incarnation," with study and 
exhaustive bibliography. Samir has prepared an edition of the entire treatise). 

Additional studies 

GRIFFITH, "Abu Ra'ita" (1980). 

Closely contemporary with the career of the Melkite Theodore 
Abu Qurrah is that of the Jacobite theologian Habib b. Hidmah Abu 
Ra'itah; their paths nearly crossed in about the year 815, when Abu 
Qurrah was preaching the Chalcedonian creed in Armenia and Abu 
Ra'itah was summoned there to present the Jacobite case/ 63 ' 

Of Abu Ra'itah's known works, three treatises composed with 
Muslims in mind are of great importance for the present study: 

1. "On the Incarnation"' 64 ' is an original apologetic presentation of the 
Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. 

collection of the prophets' prophecies affirming and confirming the incarnation of 
Christ, his crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension"). Sbath 1324, pp. 223-30. 

j^jJL^V ~+*J> y ^ J y±~i) — JL pjk yt£j j , j , i \ } J^fJl l_-»JU JLk.1 ^ s '. * L_Jl I 

^ie-[±>j ^. « IL ("On the prophecies, foreshadowings and types of the prophets of 

Christ's advent and his incarnation, his passion, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension 
into heaven; and of the invalidation and negation of the religion of the Jews because 
of their unbelief in Christ, and the entrance of the Gentiles in their place because of 
their faith in and obedience to Christ"), Sbath 1324, pp. 231-41. 

63. SAMIR, "Abu Ra'itah" (1989), 191. 

64. Jtl^oJl ^...iJupi. GCAL II, 224 (#2). Ed. and GT: GRAF, Abu Ra'ita (1951), 27-64 
[37-81]. Samir has prepared a new edition. 


(a) In one long section of this apology (#12-17 in Graf's edition and 
translation) 65 ) Abu Ra'itah presents the motivation for the Incarnation, and 
deals with a number of questions and objections: 

(i) The motivation for the incarnation: creation and the renewal of creation 

(ii) What is the meaning of salvation from death? (#13) 

(iii) Why did God send Himself? (#14) 

(iv) How can one say that God died? (#15) 

(v) Was not the union of God and man in Christ undone by his death? (#16) 

(vi) Could God not have saved humankind without an incarnation? (#17) 

(b) Later on in the apology, Abu Ra'itah responds to questions raised by 
Muslims about the gospels (#25-31)/ 66 ) Abu Ra'itah's response to the final 
question leads directly to a familiar dilemma-question concerning the death 
of Christ: 

(i) What of the cry of dereliction from the cross (Matthew 27:46)? (#31)( 67 > 

(ii) Was Christ crucified of his own will, or against his will? If of his own 
will, in what are the Jews culpable? (#32-33)< 68 > 

2. "Testimonies from the Statement of the Torah, the Prophets, and the 
Saints"< 69 > is Abu Ra'itah's catalogue of Old Testament witnesses to the Trinity 
and prophecies of Christ's Incarnation, passion, death, and resurrection. The 
lengthy passage devoted to Old Testament prophesies of the passion and 
death of Christ is #3 in Graf's division of the text. 

3. "The Apology for the Christian Religion''^ 70 ) is a general apology treating 
many of the apologetic loci common to the Christian-Muslim discussions of 
the time, including the following topics important to the present study: 

(a) The true religion, deduced from an analysis of the motives for 
accepting a religion (Graf's #2-12).( 71 ) The confession of the crucifixion 
proves that Christianity is not embraced through the reasoned approval of 
aesthetically appealing teachings (#7). Near the end of the passage we find 
use of a Moses/staff /Pharaoh :: Christ/cross/Satan typology (#11). 

65. GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 35-43 [47-56]. A new edition and FT of #12-14 is SAMIR, 
"Abu Ra'itah" (1989), 199-215. 

66. GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 52-60 [65-761. 

67. Ibid., 59-60 [74-76]. 

68. Ibid., 60-63 [76-80]. 

69. j . „. ; II j .L-JVlj Slj^Jl J^i obLp. GCAL II, 225 (under #5). Ed. and GT: 
GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 94-104 [117-261 

70. ^iLJl o^JUJl oLiij lJ\j^J\ j^i oLJ; ^ ...iJUj. GCAL II, 226 (#7). Ed. and GT: 
GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 131-59 [159-941 

71. Ibid„ 131-40 [159-70]. 


(b) The motives for the Incarnation (#20-23).< 72 > This section contains 
many of the same ideas found in "On the Incarnation." 

(c) The Christian practice of magnifying the cross (#24).( 73 ) 

(d) The Old Testament sacrificial system as a prefiguring of Christ's 
sacrifice (#27).( 74 > 

4. In addition to these treatises written specifically with Muslims in mind, 
we may mention two pieces written to counter Melkite teaching: Abu 
Ra'itah's letters to the Armenian patrician Ashot Smbat in defence of the 
Monophysite Trisagion formula against the criticisms of Abu Qurrah. The 
most important of the two letters for present purposes is the first one in 
Graf's edition, "A Justification of the Trisagion Addressed to the One 
'Crucified for Us'." (75) In a passage of particular interest for the present study, 
Abu Ra'itah argues that the confession of a God "crucified for us" - as 
in the interpolated Trisagion hymn -- is the distinguishing mark of 
Christians from Jews, Muslims, and others (#5-6).< 76 ) (Abu Ra'itah's second, 
shorter "Treatise on the Justification of the Trisagion Addressed to the One 
'Crucified for Us"'( 77 > adds little, for our purposes, to what we find in the 
longer "Justification") 

3. 'Ammar al-Basri (floruit ca. 8137-838) 
Selected Literature: 

GCAL II, 210-211. LANDRON, "Apologetique" (1978) 99-108. HADDAD, Trinite (1985) 


See HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 47-50. 
Edition, translation: 

HAYEK, Apologie (1977). M. de FENOYL has prepared a French translation of 
'Ammar's works for the collection Sources Chretiennes. 

72. Ibid., 148-53 [180-86]. 

73. Ibid., 153-54 [186-87]. 

74. Ibid., 157 [1911. 

75. ^-U ^Jll) oL-j-Li: iiiiJl ^ GCAL II, 225 (#4). Ed. and GT: 
GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 73-87 [91-109]. 

76. Ibid., 76-77 [94-97]. 

77. tsiJU oL^JuLliiLjl <rl^l ^...iJU* GCAL II, 225 (#6). Ed. and 
GT: GRAF, Abu Ra'ila (1951), 88-93 [110-1161 


Additional studies 

GRIFFITH, "Concept" (1982). Idem, '"Ammar" (1983). 

Together with the Melkite Abu Qurrah and the the Jacobite Abu Ra'itah, it is 
necessary to mention the Nestorian apologist known to us only as 'Ammar al-Basri, 
whose mature work "The Book of the Demonstration" (Kitab al-burhan) appears to 
have been written in 838 A.D.( 78 > Only two of 'Ammar's works have been preserved, 
but both are encyclopaedic and of the greatest importance for the development of 
Christian apologetics in the Islamic milieu. Both contain a number of passages of 
relevance to the present study. 

1. "The Book of Questions and Answers"< 79 > is probably the earlier of the two 
works of 'Ammar that have been preserved. It has the form of responses to 
questions of the sort that a Muslim mutakallim may have posed. Passages of 
particular interest for the present study deal with:< 80 ) 

(a) The true religion (II, 6-14).< 81 ) As in the analogous discussions of Abu 
Qurrah and Abu Ra'itah, the centrality of the cross to Christianity (see 
especially #7) is a factor prohibiting an easy socio-political or psychological 
explanation of its successful spread. 

(b) The death of Christ (IV, 32-42)/ 82 ) In an exceedingly rich passage, 
'Ammar analyzes: 

(i) The necessity of Christ's death (IV, 32-34). #32: Why did Christ undergo 
pain, death, and humiliation? #33: Could he not have simply preached the 
resurrection, as did the prophets? #34 Were not his miracles — including 
raising the dead - sufficiently convincing? 

(ii) The manner of Christ's death (IV, 35-39). #35: Why did Christ have to 
die a shameful death at the hands of his enemies? #36: Why the criminal's 
death of crucifixion? #37: Why did Christ not come down from the cross 
directly after his death, instead allowing himself to be buried? #38: Why, 
after a public crucifixion, were his post-resurrection appearances private? 
#39: Again, why did Christ have to die a public death? 

(iii) The human instruments of Christ's death (IV, 40-42). #40: In what 
were the Jews, the instruments of Christ's redemptive death, guilty? 
#41: What of Christ's prayer "Father, forgive them, for they do not know 
what they are doing"? #42: Why were the Jews hostile? 

78. HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 19-20. 

79. JJL-JI GCAL II, 210-211 (#2). Ed. HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 9P-265*. 

80. References are made according to 'Ammar's divisions (slightly touched up by Hayek), 
with the Roman numeral referring to the maqdlah or fann and the Arabic numeral to 
the mas'alah. 

81. Ibid., 135*-47* 

82. Ibid., 228*-48*. 


(c) Finally, 'Ammar discusses the meaning of claims that Christ 
"destroyed sin and abolished death," which empirical observation would seem 
to falsify (IV.47-49).< 83 > 

2. "The Book of the Demonstration"' 84 ) overlaps with the previous work, but 
also contains new material. The loci important for the present study are: 

(a) The true religion (chapters 2-3).< 85 ) This is dealt with in much the 
same way as in "The Book of Questions and Answers." In particular, see 
'Ammar's discussion of why the acceptance of Christianity cannot be 
explained by al-istihsan, the reasoned approval of plausible teachings.* 86 ) 

(b) The rebuttal of the charge that Christians falsified the scriptures 
(chapter 4).< 87 ) The centrality of the crucifixion and of the worship of the 
Crucified to the Bible, despite their offensiveness, is evidence that the text 
has not been changed/ 88 ) 

(c) The crucifixion (chapter 8).< 89 ) 'Ammar first argues that Muslims 
should not have difficulty in accepting the historicity of the crucifixion. He 
then goes on to explain its purpose and necessity: to provide a 
certainty-granting demonstration of the reality of the resurrection of the dead. 

(d) The cult of the cross (chapter 11).( 90 > 

83. Ibid., 255*-59*. 

84. jU^Jl ^LT. GCAL II, 210 (#1). Ed. HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 19*-90*. 

85. According to Hayek's divisions. Ibid., 24*-41*. 

86. Ibid., 36*-38*. 

87. Ibid., 41*-46*. 

88. Ibid., 43*-44*. 

89. Ibid., 79*-81*. 

90. Ibid., 87*-88*. 


C. Apocalyptic, Polemic, and Controversy 
in the Age of al-Ma'mun (813-33) 

The three great theologians that we have just considered were all 
contemporaries of the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun (caliph 813-33). We turn now to 
another group of texts that claim some connection with the age of this fascinating 

The age of al-Ma'mun presents different faces to posterity. One face is chaotic. 
From the death of his father Harun al-RasId in 809 until his return to Baghdad in 819, 
al-Ma'mun was engaged in a civil war, and in some parts of the caliphate civil unrest 
and dissatisfaction continued throughout his reign. As late as 831 there were tax 
revolts in Qumm and in Egypt; that in Egypt had to be put down by the caliph in 
person. It has been suggested that much of the support among the urban proletariat 
for the "strict constructionist" school of Ahmad ibn Hanbal, over against what became 
the official Mu'tazilism of the court, was fueled by hopes for a truly Islamic - and 
less burdensome! - system of taxation.^ 91 ) 

Christians suffered from this chaos along with everyone else. And as had been 
the case during earlier periods of turmoil/ 92 * one response to the precariousness of life 
was the production of works of apocalyptic, through which "[t]he closed end of a 
known future allows the author to live with the otherwise chaos of an open-ended 
present.''^ 93 ) The chaos of the years after the death of Harun al-RasTd led to the 
production of at least two works of Arabic Christian apocalyptic: new recensions of 
'The Wisdom of Sibyl" and of 'The Apocalypse/Legend of BahTra." 

Another face of al-Ma'mun's reign is entirely different: rational, intellectually 
open, enlightened. With his patronage of scholars and translators, and his foundation 
of the Bayt al-Hikmah in 832, al-Ma'mun became "the promoter of the cultural 
watershed of the 3rd/9th century.''^ 94 ' He actively encouraged and even participated in 
religious debates -- with Christians (and Jews, and Zoroastrians) as well as with 

The reputation of the caliph for religious openness was exploited by Christian 
apologists long after his death. In fact, one may speak of a Christian "al-Ma'mun 
tradition," one trajectory of which has him converting to Christianity, as in "The Life 
of St. Theodore of Edessa"( 95 > or in the "karsuni" recension of 'The Wisdom of Sibyl."< 96 > 

91. REKAYA, "al-Ma'mun" (1991), 336-37. 

92. For some Christian works of apocalyptic from the first Islamic century see below, pp. 79-81 and 
111-12. See also B. LEWIS, "Vision" (1949-50), 308, where we are reminded that not only 
Christians, but also Muslims, Jews, and Zoroastrians produced apocalyptic literature during the 
early Islamic centuries. 

93. WHEELER, "Capture" (1991), 82. 

94. REKAYA, "Ma'mun" (1991), 336. 

95. GCAL II, 24-25; NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 160-62. See also VASILIEV, "St. Theodore" 
(1942-43), 192-98. 


Whatever their degree of historicity, a number of documents purporting to be 
transcripts of debates or copies of correspondence from the age of the enlightened 
caliph came to be widely circulated among Christians. Several of these will be 
examined below. 

L "The Wisdom of Sibyl (SabTla)" 
Selected Literature: 

GCAL I, 292-95. 

See GCAL I, 294 + Ebied's and Young's discovery of copies in Leeds ar. 184 and 
Oxford, Bodl. Hunt. 328, and add: Sinai ar. 461 (9th-10th a), f. 34 r - v ; Sinai ar. NF pap. 
34 (1002 A.D.); and Sinai ar. 448 (13th a), ff. 300v-304r. 

Editions, translations 

"Karschunische Version": SCHLEIFER, Sibylle (1908) [ed. and GT from Oxford, Bodl. 

syr. 140 (Hunt. 199) and Paris syr. 631 
"Arab. I": SCHLEIFER, Sibylle (1908) [ed. and GT from Paris ar. 178]. 
"Arab. II": SCHLEIFER, Sibylle (1908), 7-49 [ed. from Paris ar. 281]. BASSET, Sibylle 

(1900), 54-62 [FT made from the same MS]. 
"Arab. Ill": SCHLEIFER, Sibylle (1908), 7-49 [ed. from Paris ar. 70 (base), with Paris ar. 

71 and Vatican syr. 58]. BASSET, Sibylle (1900), 41-53 [FT made from Paris ar. 70]. 
"Arab. IV": ed. and ET: EBIED/YOUNG, "Version" (1977) [from Leeds ar. 1841 
"Arab. V": excerpts and ET: EBIED/YOUNG, "Prophecy" (1976) [from Oxford, Bodl. 

Hunt. 3281 

Additional studies 

ABEL, "Rome" (1958), 8, note L ALEXANDER, Oracle (1967). 

A Christian apocalyptic legend which has come down to us in a variety of 
Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic recensions relates how an elderly prophetess or 
sibyl interpreted a mysterious dream about nine suns dreamt simultaneously by one 
hundred wise men of Rome.( 97 > According to the sibyl, the nine suns represent the 
nine ages of humanity, progressing from the darkness of paganism to the appearance 
of Christ, the reign of Constantine, other historical events of importance to the author 
of each recension, and finally the eschatological woes and the drama of the End. 

In its Arabic dress, "The Wisdom of Sibyl" exists in several distinct recensions. 
Schleifer distinguished a "karschunische Version" and three other Arabic recensions 
which he labelled Arab. I, Arab. II, and Arab. III. More recently, Ebied and Young 

96. SCHLEIFER, Sibylle (1908), 32 (#14) [GT 631 

97. For the earliest (Greek) history of the tradition, see ALEXANDER, Oracle (1967). 


have added an Arab. IV and an Arab. V! This list is readily extended. The literary 
problems posed by this profusion of material have not yet been sorted out - a task 
beyond the scope of the present study/ 98 ) Here it is enough to point out that at least 
one Arabic recension of the work is a product of the eighth or ninth century, and has 
some relevance to the present inquiry. 

Earlier in this century scholars tended to assign a rather late date to the Arabic 
sibylline texts. Basset believed they went back to a 13th c. Syriac original/") Graf 
vaguely opined that they were "erst in junger Zeit entstanden."( 10 °) Shortly afterwards 
Abel dated the Arabic texts on the basis of what he took to be a reference to the 
Crusader capture of Constantinople in 1204.< 101 ) However, more recent manuscript 
evidence pushes the date of one of the recensions, "Arab. Ill," into the first millenium. 
A fragment of this text is found in a single leaf (f. 34) of Sinai ar. 461, a manuscript 
which on paleographical grounds is to be dated to the ninth or tenth century. 
Furthermore, a recension that appears to be a development of "Arab. Ill" is found in 
Sinai ar. NF pap. 34, dated 1002 A.D. 

Attention to the content of "Arab. Ill" permits us to be yet more precise in its 
dating. In it, the turn from history to eschatology characteristic of apocalyptic texts 
takes place just after the author has made a clear allusion to a Muslim king who did 
not complete his twenty-fourth year as ruler (i.e., Harun al-Rasid, caliph 786-809) and 
who left two sons upon his death, one of whom was named Muhammad 
(= Muhammad al-Amln, caliph 809-13)/ 102 ) These allusions, which were correctly 
interpreted already by Basset/ 103 ) are followed by a very typical description of the 
troubled times experienced by the community (including moral breakdown within the 
Church itself) and an apocalyptically-colored account of future woes, leading up to the 
recital of the end-time events. It is natural to see "Arab. Ill" as a reworking of older 
apocalyptic tradition designed to give Christians hope in the midst of the chaos 
associated with the war of succession to Harun al-Rasid and the disturbances at the 
beginning of the reign of al-Ma'mun. We may therefore date "Arab. Ill" to shortly 
after 809 A.D/ 104 ) 

For the purposes of the present study, the following points are worthy of note: 

98. But look for my "The Earliest Arabic Recensions of The Wisdom of Sibyl,'" to be 

99. BASSET, Sibylle (1900), 18. 

100. GCAL I, 293. 

101. Abel's study was read to the Societe Beige pour le Progres des Etudes Philologiques et 
Historiques, seance du 12 nov. 1950, but 1 have only been able to find his conclusion: 
ABEL, "Rome" (1958), 8, note 1. 

102. SCHLEIFER, Sibylle (1908), 33 (#16b-h), cf. EBIED/YOUNG, "Version" (1977), 296-97. 

103. BASSET, Sibylle (1900), 15-16. 

104. The significance of this dating for the other recensions needs to be considered. It is 
not impossible that Schleifer's "Arab. I," which he believed to stand at the beginning of 
the series "Arab. I" - "Arab. II" - "Arab. Ill," was composed in the eighth century, and 


1. In all the Arabic recensions, Sibyl prophesied the coming of Christ, 
including his crucifixion and burial.' 105 ' This prophecy was known and not 
infrequently alluded to in later Arabic Christian apologies under the rubric of 
"the prophecies of the the pagan/Greek sages."' 106 ) 

2. Throughout the work, Christ is referred to as "he who was hung upon the 
cross" (alladi 'ulliqa 'aid l-sallb I l-hasaba I l-'iid). While this appears to be 
a feature of the pre-Islamic Greek recension of the text/ 107 ) in the Islamic 
context it takes on a special, assertive significance. 

2. "The Apocalypse/Legend of Bahira" 
Selected Literature: 

GCAL II, 145-49. ISCH, "Bibliographic" 12.1 (and 27.1). LANDRON, "Apologetique" 
(1978), 120-32. NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 136-37. 


See GCAL II, 149 + NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 137. 
Edition, translation 

GOTTHEIL, "Legend" (1898-99, 1899-1900) [introduction, Syriac texts and ET]; (1899-1900, 
1900-1) [Arabic text from Paris ar. 215, with variants from Paris ar. 70, Paris ar. 71 and 
Gotha ar. 2875]; (1903) [ET of Arabic text]. 

Additional studies 

ABEL, "Apocalypse" (1935). BIGNAMI-ODIER/LEVI DELLA VIDA, "Version" (1950). 
ABEL, "Changements" (1954). Idem, "Bahira" (1960). GRIFFITH, "Prophet" (1982), 108-9, 

"The Apocalypse/Legend of Bahira" in the form in which we have it in Arabic 
is a strange work: two related but significantly different apocalyptic vision-reports 
bracket a contemptuous Christian story about the origins of Islam, which (the story 

is one of the very oldest Arabic Christian texts in our possession. See SCHLEIFER, Sibylle (1908), 

105. See ibid., 24-25 (#7d-e). 

106. Oas' 1 '.** 1 'L-^- 11 • • • ^jt* in Sinai ar - 553 - f - gf ( the citation from the Sibyl is at ff. 23 v -24 r ), 
and - 1 '« ■- h *UJo*Jl C»l j-J in the Kitab al-magdal, Vatican ar. 108, f. 118 r or Paris ar. 190, 
p. 287 (the citation from the Sibyl follows immediately). Curiously, however, the citations here do 
not correspond to any of the recensions in our possession. 

107. See the Greek text edited in ALEXANDER, Oracle (1967), where Christ is referred to as 6 oii 
^ulou ueXXuv OTaupoOrjvai (p. 13, line 66) and the like. 


goes) are to be found in the relationship between a well-meaning but foolish 
Nestorian monk and an ignorant Arab named Muhammad! The work as we have it 
is clearly a composite with a complex literary history which has not yet been 
satisfactorily sorted out. The relationship between the Arabic and the Syriac 
recensions, for example, is not entirely clear. It appears that we do have a witness to 
the earliest stages of the Bahlra tradition in a Latin text in our possession, which is 
probably a translation from Arabic/ 108 ) 

There is a certain amount of disagreement about the dating of this text. 
According to its editor Gottheil and others* 109 ) the form in which we now have the 
work must date from the 11th or 12th century, even if parts may be much older. 
Abel, on the other hand, sees the whole as a composition dating from the reign of 
al-Ma'mun (813-33)/ n °) and more specifically from the period between 817 and 824/ m ) 
Not only do various details of the second apocalyptic vision-report seem to refer 
directly to al-Ma'mun and notable persons and events of his reign, but the closest 
literary parallel to the polemical presentation of Islam's origins is found in "The Letter 
of al-Kindl" -- probably another production of the time of al-Ma'mun. I do not 
believe that Abel's analysis has been seriously challenged, and with other 
contemporary students of the text* 112 ) am ready to believe that the Arabic text as we 
have it — allowance made for corruptions and glosses - dates from the early ninth 

There is also some disagreement as to under which Christian community this 
material should be catalogued. The text has most frequently been catalogued among 
Nestorian authors/ 113 ) but Nasrallah recently decided to include the Christian 
Bahira-legend/apocalypse in his catalogue of Melkite literature/ 114 ) 

108. Ed.: BIGNAMI-ODIER/LEVI DELLA VIDA, "Version" (1950). 

109. GOTTHEIL, "Legend" (1898-99), 192; BIGNAMI-ODIER and LEVI DELLA VIDA, "Version" (1950), 
132 note 3; BROCK, "Sources" (1976), 36. 

110. ABEL, "Apocalypse" (1935). 

111. That is, between the adoption of the 'Alid green in 817 and the execution of Ibn 'A'isah in 824; 
ABEL, "Changements" (1954) 29, n. L 

112. LANDRON, "Apologetique" (1978), 121-24; GRIFFITH, "Prophet" (1983), 108-9. 

113. E.g. by GRAF, GCAL II, 145-49; LANDRON, "Apologetique" (1978). 

114. NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 136-37. However, the fact that in the vision-report the final (good) 
king before the coming of the False Messiah is the king of the Byzantines does not necessarily 
indicate a Melkite author, as Nasrallah claims. Here the author is simply following the (perhaps 
Nestorian — so REININK, "Ismael" (1982), 344) "Apocalypse of (pseudo-) Methodius," as also does 
the Coptic author of pseudo-Pisentius (PERIER, "Pisuntios" (1914), 313 [FT 321]). 


The material of interest for the present work lies in the legend's account of 
Bahira's own beliefs concerning the cross, and in his understanding of the Qur'anic 
passages and Islamic practices that he taught to Muhammad: 

1. Both the Syriac and Arabic recensions of the story report that 
Bahlra (or Sargis in the Syriac) believed that as the cross of Christ was 
one, so there should not be more than one single cross in a church/ 115 ) 
The Syriac adds to this that Sargis only accepted wooden crosses, and 
was sent into exile by bishops who considered him a "hater of the 
cross."< 116 ) 

2. In the Arabic story, although not in the Syriac, the monk explains 
the Christian meanings "that he intended to communicate, as it were 
subliminally"( 117 > through the Qur'anic passages he taught Muhammad. 
Thus a specifically Christian meaning is given to Al 'Imran (3):55,( llg ) 
"Into thy hands I commend my spirit" (which is taken to be 
Qur'anic)/ 119 ) al-Nisa' (4):157( 12 °) and al-Md'idah (5):64.< 121 ) In addition, 
the gathering for congregational prayers at noon on Friday is given a 
Christian explanation/ 122 ) 

115. GOTTHEIL, "Legend" (1898-99), 202, 240 [ET (1899-1900), 204, 249-50]; (1899-1900), 260 [ET (1903), 

116. Ibid., (1898-99), 202 [ET (1899-1900), 204]. 

117. GRIFFITH, "Prophet" (1983), 138. 

118. GOTTHEIL, "Legend" (1900-1), 59 [ET (1903), 138]. 

119. Ibid., (1900-1), 60 [ET (1903), 138]. 

120. Ibid. (1900-1), 60-61 [ET (1903), 138]. 
12L Ibid., (1900-1), 62-63 [ET (1903), 140]. 
122. Ibid. (1900-1), 75 [ET (1903), 148]. 


3. "The Letter of al-Kindi" (Risalat al-Kindi) 
Selected Literature: 

GAL S.I, 344-45. GCAL II, 135-45. ISCH, "Bibliographie" 11.6 + 12.10. LANDRON, 
"Apologetique" (1978) 133-52; HADDAD, Trinite (1985) 40-43. 


See GCAL II, 144-45 (description and stemma in FARINA/CIARAMELLA, "Edizione" 
(1982), 199-206) + TARTAR, Dialogue (1985), 15-17. Samir Khalil SAMIR has prepared, 
but not yet published, a more thorough inventory. 

Editions, translations 

TIEN, Risalah (1885) [ed. from two MSS of Constantinople! MUIR, Apology (1887) 
[summary ET of Tien's ed.]. TARTAR, "Dialogue" (1977) [ed. from Paris ar. 5141, Paris 
syr. 204, Paris syr. 205, and Yale, Landberg 56a]. Idem, Dialogue (1985) [introduction 
and FT]. A new edition has been prepared, but not yet published, by Samir Khalil 

Additional studies 

MASSIGNON, "Al-Kindi" (1927). KRAUS, "Ketzergeschichte" (1933). SENDINO, 
"Apologia" (1949). ABEL, "al Kindi" (1964). ANAWATI, "Polemique" (1969), 380-92. 
TARTAR, "Authenticite" (1982). GRIFFITH, "Prophet" (1980), 105-8. CHARFI, Radd 
(1986), 123-28 [on the "Letter of al-Hasimi"]. 

The older debate about the ecclesiastical provenance and date of this work has 
been replaced by a consensus that the author was a Nestorian Christian who was, as 
he claims, a contemporary of the caliph al-Ma'mun/ 1 ") Furthermore, there is broad 
agreement that the "Letter of al-Hasimi" which introduces the "correspondence" is not 
the work of a Muslim at all, but rather a composition of the Christian writer that sets 
the stage for the polemic to follow/ 124 ) 

A few passages in this work touch on the cross/crucifixion of Christ/ 125 ) 

1. "al-Hasimi" calls his Christian friend to renounce the worship of the cross, 
which "works harm rather than benefit.^ 126 ) (29 [108]) 

123. For a quick review of the literature and views representative of the current consensus, 
see GRIFFITH, "Prophet" (1983) 105-8. TARTAR ("Authenticite" (1982), 210-14) believes 
he can narrow the date of the work to 819-25. 

124. E.g., ABEL, "al Kindi" (1964), 502; GRIFFITH, "Prophet" (1983), 108; CHARFI, Radd (1986), 
125-28. TARTAR ("Authenticite" (1982), 217-220) continues to insist that the "Letter of 
al-Hasimi" is an authentic composition by a Muslim. 

125. Page numbers refer to TARTAR, "Dialogue" (1977). They are followed, in square 
brackets, by the page number of the FT of TARTAR, Dialogue (1985). 

126. V j ,_yxJl. A M has probably been lost in Tartar's edition, since the usual 
charge, echoing al-Su'ara (26):73, is that the cross "works neither harm nor benefit." 


2. "al-Kindi" responds to this with a justification of the veneration of the 
cross. His response includes, in addition to traditional arguments, a reminder 
to "al-Hasimi" of his own experience of physical deliverance through seeking 
refuge in the cross. (165-67 [239-41]) 

3. Later, the crucifixion is mentioned in the context of a presentation of 
Christ's humility and non-violence (which the Christian polemicist intends 
should be seen in contrast to the hubris and violence of the Muslims). 
al-'Imran (3):55-58 is cited as a Qur'anic witness to the death and ascension of 
Christ. (204-6 [277-78]) 

4. The Dialogue of Ibrahim al-Tabarani 
Selected Literature: 

GCAL II, 28-30. ISCH, "Bibliographie" 12.11. HADDAD, Trinite (1985) 32-33. 
NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 134-36. 


Complete listing and description in MARCUZZO, Dialogue, 169-96. For the study of 
the beta recension I have used, in addition to the translation of VOLLERS: Vatican 
ar. 136, Vatican syr. 608, Paris ar. 215, Paris ar. 258. 

Edition, translations 

VOLLERS, "Religionsgesprach" (1908) [GT after a 10th c. Egyptian manuscript in Vollers' 
possession, now lost]. MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986) [critical edition, FT, and study of 
the oldest recension of the text, from Sinai ar. 556 (base), Vatican Barberini or. 120, 
Vatican Sbath 542, Vatican ar. 99, Paris ar. 214, Paris ar. 258]. 

Additional studies 

PEETERS, "S. Michel" (1930). ABEL, "St. Theodore" (1949). VAJDA, "Traite" (1967-68). 
VAN ESS, "Disputationspraxis" (1976). 

There has been considerable disagreement about the historicity of the events 
narrated by this text/ 127 ) according to which the monk Abraham of Tiberias, while on 
pilgrimage to Jerusalem sometime in the early ninth century, debated Muslim scholars 
in the presence of the governor 'Abd al-Rahman al-Hasimi, and was in the end 
vindicated through ordeal by poison and fire. However, the recent publication of a 
critical edition allows for a reassessment of scholarly opinion concerning the work. 
The following points may be made: 

127. The strongest judgments against historicity are those of VOLLERS, "Religionsgesprach" (1908), 
32-33; GRAF, GCAL II, 28; and VAN ESS, "Disputationspraxis" (1976), 29. 


(a) The evidence must now be read in the light of Marcuzzo's discovery that the 
debate exists in two main recensions: that which he called alpha, of which he 
provided a critical edition, and the longer beta recension, of which Voller's text, based 
on a tenth-century manuscript, is an example.' 128 ' For example, in reading Abel's 
arguments for a tenth-century dating' 129 ) one must recognize that he was working on 
the basis of passages from the beta recension. 

(b) Even in its alpha recension, the text contains historically dubious and even 
fabulous elements. The narrative outline - the appearance of a Christian monk or 
bishop before an exalted Muslim official, theological debate, performance of miracles 
including emerging unharmed from ordeal by poison and fire - invites comparison 
with a number of other works of hagiography and popular apologetics such as the 
passion of St. Michael of Mar Saba in the days of the Umayyad caliph 'Abd al-Malik 
b. Marwan,' 130 ) or the confrontation between St. John of Edessa and the Jew Finhas at 
the court of Harun al-RasTd.' 131 ) 

(c) This does not mean, however, that there was never a debate in Jerusalem in 
the early ninth century, perhaps involving a monk named Ibrahim al-Tabarani, which 
may have inspired this text. Little more than this, however, may be safely affirmed. 
Even Marcuzzo, who desires to claim the largest "historical kernel" possible for the 
work, states his conclusion with the greatest caution: "a Muslim-Christian dialogue 
must really and fundamentally have taken place in Jerusalem at the beginning of the 
ninth century between a monk, let us call him Abraham of Tiberias, and an exalted 
Muslim personage, who might have been 'Abd al-Rahman ibn 'Abd al-Malik 
al-Hasim!."' 132 ) 

(d) Whatever one's judgment about the extent of the "historical kernel" of the 
work, there is little reason for disbelieving the statement of the text itself (in its 
alpha recension) that it dates from the quarter-century between 813 and about 838' 133 ) 
- which corresponds closely to the reign of al-Ma'mun. This dating allows time for 
the development of the beta recension, to which the tenth-century Codex Vollers was 
a witness. 

Passages of relevance for the present study include:' 134 ) 

128. See MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 197-208. 

129. ABEL, "St. Theodore" (1949), 233-35. 

130. ISCH, "Bibliographie," 16.3; NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 159-60; study and LT of the Georgian 
text in PEETERS, "S. Michel" (1930). 

131. GCAL II, 25-26; HADDAD, Trinite (1985), 29-30; NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 162-63. To their 
witnesses add Sinai ar. 411 (1286 A.D.), ff. 191 r -198 r (copied, unfortunately, from an incomplete 
text). An excerpt from the 10th c. manuscript once present in Louvain was published by 
PEETERS, "S. Michel" (1930), 87-88. 

132. MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 101. Translation and emphasis mine. 

133. That is, after seven caliphs had been murdered, but before two hundred years had passed since 
the Islamic conquest of Palestine. See MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 328-29 (#125). 

134. References are to the verset numbers in Marcuzzo's edition and translation. 


1. On Christ's reception - with humiliation and the cross (#252-58). Ibrahim 
stresses that Christ was not delivered into the hands of the Jews through 

At this point there is a lengthy addition in recension beta in which this 
idea is further developed. Ibrahim here responds to two Muslim objections: 
(a) Christ was too honored of God for Him to have allowed him to be 
crucified, (b) If Christ were crucified according to his will, what then was 
the fault of the Jews? The bulk of the addition is dependent on the dialogue 
of the catholicos Timothy with the caliph al-Mahdi. 

2. On the subbiha lahum of al-Nisa' (4):157 (#276-88). Ibrahim responds to 
the emir's denial that God delivered his Son (according to the Christians) to 
crucifixion with his own interpretation of the subbiha lahum, and an 
argument for the trustworthiness of the eyewitness accounts of Christ's 
hawariyyun ("disciples"). 

3. On whether the Christians blasphemously attribute suffering to God 
(#325-57). Ibramlm meets the Muslim's charge of blasphemy (#325-31) with 
analogies: a person's angel is unaffected by his death agonies (#333-49); the 
sun is unaffected by the butchering of a camel on which it beats down 

4. On whether Christians worship the cross, and a vindication of Christian 
veneration of the cross (#512-34). 

There are important variants in recension beta, especially at #520, where 
the cross is said to guarantee victory over all one's enemies. 

5. On the death and resurrection of Christ as the true ground of hope for 
the resurrection (#535-45). 

6. Ibrahim's trial by ordeal at the narrative's conclusion (#546-65). Note the 
monk's invocation of "Christ whom the Jews crucified in this city" (#552) and 
his use of the sign of the cross (#552, 558, 565). 

5. The Dialogue of Abu Qurrah and Muslim Scholars 
before the Caliph al-Ma'mun 

Selected Literature: 

GCAL II, 21-22 (#18(a)-(b)). ISCH, "Bibliographic" 12.8.4. NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 
124-25 (#6.A). 



See GCAL II, 21-22 + NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 124-25. The oldest manuscript, 
Borg. ar. 135, is from the year 1308, and not 1408 as usually stated.' 135 ' 


Ignace DICK is preparing an edition.' 136 ' 
Additional studies 

GRAF, Abu Qurra (1910), 77-85. GUILLAUME, "Abu Qurra" (1925). GRIFFITH, 
Theology (1978), 20-23. DICK, Createur (1982), 75-76. SAMIR "Litterature" (1990), 481. 
DICK, "Discussion" (1990-91). 

The pendulum of critical opinion has swung from regarding the report of Abu 
Qurrah's disputation at the court of al-Ma'mun as a rather inept' 137 ' fictional attempt 
to reassure Christians of the intellectual superiority of Christianity to Islam,' 138 ' to 
cautious affirmation of the probable historicity of the work..' 139 ' This affirmation is 
largely due to the fact that a recension of the debate was well known in the Middle 
Ages, for example by the author of the Syriac "Chronicle to the Year 1234"' 140 > and by 
the Coptic ecclesial encyclopaedist Abu 1-Barakat Ibn Kabar (d. 1324).' 141 ' Perhaps the 
appearance of a critical edition will help bring the critical pendulum to rest. 

In the best known manuscripts of the work there are three lengthy passages 
which are of relevance to the theme of the present study. Making reference to Paris 
ar. 70,' 142 ' these passages are: 

1. ff. 175 r -176 v : Response to the question "Did your God die?" Qur'anic 
proof that Jesus died and is now in heaven. 

2. ff. 180 v -184 v : A number of issues concerning the cross and crucifixion of 
Christ, (a) On the cult of the cross, (b) On the interpretation of al-Nisa' 
(4):157. (c) The allegory of the hdwl as an explanation of Christ's 

135. The colophon concludes (f. 172 v ): iJL« c «_> i_*J* ^>Jj tyi £j oLi'j 

jj^L-Vl ii- jLe- j. Tammuz 1619 in the Era of Alexander = July 1308 A.D. 

136. See "Newsletter," BAC 6 (1990) 8. 

137. "wenig gluckliche," GRAF, Abu Qurra (1910), 82. 

138. Ibid., 77-85; idem, GCAL II, 21-22. 

139. GRIFFITH, Theology (1978), 22-23; NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 124-25; DICK, 
Createur (1982), 75-76; SAMIR, "Litterature" (1990), 481; DICK, "Discussion" (1990-91), 

140. CHABOT, 1234 (1917), II, 23 [FT II, 16]. 

141. SAMIR, Misbah (1970), 301. 

142. The correct order of the text is: ff. 149-91, 194-201, 206, 208-11, 192-93, 212-15. The 
displacement of pages in this manuscript has created a certain amount of confusion 
(which might have been avoided through attention to the Coptic folio numbers); 


redemptive work, (d) Can the Word and Spirit of God be crucified? 

3. ff. 192 r -193 v , 212 r -214 r : On Christ's freely-willed death, and the guilt of 
the Jews. 

It is important to note, however, that these passages are entirely absent from 
the oldest copy of the debate in our possession, Vatican Borgia ar. 135 (1308 A.D.), 
ff. 157 v -172 v . In this recension of the debaters) there are but fleeting references to 
the cross and crucifixion of Christ: a Muslim opponent accuses the Christians of 
claiming that the cross made them victorious/ 144 ) and of worshipping a creature who 
was crucified and died/ 145 ) 

The so-called Jacobite recension of the work< 146 ) reflects yet another stage in 
the development of this material. In the manuscripts of this recension that I have 
consulted/ 147 ' the first and second sections listed above are present, but the third, on 
Christ's freely-willed death and the guilt of the Jews, is absent. 

On the basis of these observations, it is difficult to maintain that the sections 
on the cross and crucifixion of Christ listed above were part of the original recension 
of the debate (however this original recension is to be dated). Several of these 
passages do, however, have clear eighth- and ninth-century parallels/ 148 ' When the 
literary history of this debate is finally sorted out, it is likely that we shall gain some 
insight into how small units of apologetic tradition circulated in the Arabic-speaking 
churches for centuries, ever available for use in fleshing out an apologetic narrative - 
such as the story of the great Theodore Abu Qurrah reducing the Muslim 
mutakallimun to silence before the caliph al-Ma'mun. 

cf. TROUPEAU, Catalogue (1972), 50-51. 

143. Jerusalem St. Anne 52 (17th a), pp. 293-325, appears to be another witness to this recension. 

144. Vatican borg. ar. 135, f. 169 r ; Jerusalem St. Anne 52, p. 317. 

145. Vatican borg. ar. 135, f. 169 v ; Jerusalem St. Anne. 52, p. 319. 

146. See GCAL II, 22. 

147. Mingana syr. 190 (1874), ff. l v -24 r and Mingana syr. 444 (1890), ff. 137 v -170 r . 

148. The allegory of the hawl and the question of Christ's freely-willed death and the guilt of the 
Jews will be discussed at some length below, at pp. 177-79 and 197-211 respectively. 


D. An Overlooked Apology: "The Book of Eustathius" (Kitab Ustat) 

Selected Literature: 

GCAL II, 256-57. HADDAD, Trinite (1985) 40. 


See GCAL II, 257. My description below is based on Mingana chr. ar. 52. 

In the Arabic writings of Coptic authors active between the tenth and the 
fourteenth centuries we find a number of references to an apology entitled "The Book 
of Eustathius" (Kitab Ustat). In the fourth chapter of his Kitab al-bayan, Sawirus 
b. al-Muqaffa' (10th c.) refers to and cites from "the book of our brother the monk 
Anastasius [sic], known as 'The Book of Eustathius."'* 149 ) Some centuries later, Abu 
Sakir al-Nusu' b. Butrus al-Rahib (later 13th c.) cited from 'The Book of Eustathius the 
Monk'^so) in his Kitab al-burhdn. And a few years later still, Abu 1-Barakat b. Kabar 
(d. 1324) included "Eustathius the Monk" in his list of Jacobite authors of the 
post-patristic period, mentioning that he had written a "Book of the Explanation" 
{Kitab al-bayan) as a response "to a letter sent to him by one of the philosophers, in 
which [the philosopher] expressed his inclination towards and preference for the 
doctrine of the monotheists, such as the Jews and their like (al-Yahud wa-ma 
asbahahum) who do not speak of plurality [in God], as opposed to the doctrine of the 
Christians."* 151 ) 

This work of the monk Eustathius has not been lost, but exists in two more or 
less complete compies: Aleppo Sbath 1011 (1301 A.D., restored in 1793) and Mingana 
chr. ar. 52 (1876 A.D.). Its title reads* 152 ) 

Hw-aI jJI <L>\\t k_ijy*-JI ^L^jJI ^-uJjJI v-^l SJL-j 

149. oik-' ^USL ^ij^cJl ^Ik-Ji t_jbl J\ Ll^i ^.L^, Vatican ar. 138, f. 44 v . 

150. ^1 J\ oLk^i ybS', Vatican ar. 104, f. 224 v . 

151. L«j ijjJj«-_j^Jl (j'j Lf-j l^-l ilL.j ii_-^JJl u ^ - ■ LS JU <t-> jj i«ol— ll i—jLlS'i <d 
pj.-U LyAfa j tt5jUaJl ,^1* 4_,;KdL; JjL J jl. t(( .^i, SAMIR, Misbah (1970), 321. 

152. From Aleppo Sbath 1011 as reproduced in SBATH, Bibliotheque (1928-34), II, 130-31. The title page 
of Mingana chr. ar. 52 is missing, but the incipit given by Sbath from his MS 1011 is sufficiently 
long to supply all the missing text. 



The letter of the holy spiritual father known as Eustathius (listed) the monk, to 
the one who wrote him asserting the correctness of the doctrine of the monotheists and 
their religions, such as the Jews and their like (al-Yahud wa-asbdhihim), and finding 
fault with the Christians and their religion. He wrote him the following letter, 
offering compelling proof and attesting to the validity of the Christian religion. 

This title corresponds precisely to Abu 1-Barakat's description of the work. 
Furthermore, I have been able to find the source of the citations of the Kitab Ustat 
in the Kitab al-baydn of Sawirus and the Kitab al-burhan of Abu Sakir in the late 
but readily-available manuscript, Mingana chr. ar. 52,< 153 ) The "Book of Eustathius" 
available in Mingana chr. ar. 52 would appear to be one and the same as the work 
highly regarded by Coptic authors of the centuries of Arabic-language theological 
creativity in Egypt. 

Who was "Eustathius the monk"? The text shows clearly that he was 
christologically "Monophysite,"( 154 > while his biblical citations, which reveal the 
influence of the Peshitta, indicate that he was a Syrian rather than a Copt. Further 
information may be gleaned from Muslim sources. Both Ibn al-Nadim and Ibn Abi 
Usaybi'ah mention an Ustat who was a translator of philosophical and medical works 
into Arabic;( ,55 > Ibn al-Nadim mentions that he translated part of the the Metaphysica 
{Kitab al-huruf) for al-Kindi (d. shortly after 870).< 156 ) If this notice is correct and 
refers to the author of our apology, then Eustathius emerges as a Jacobite translator 
and apologist of the mid-ninth century. These conclusions are made all the more 
plausible by the many parallels that can be drawn between Eustathius' arguments and 
those of Abu Ra'itah.e*?) 

The "Book of Eustathius" is a lengthy and wide-ranging apology in which the 
crucifixion of Christ figures frequently. Some of the most important passages, as 
found in Mingana chr. ar. 52, are the following: 

153. Sawirus makes free use of material found in the Kitab Ustat; for example, compare Vatican ar. 
138, ff. 42 v -44 r with Mingana chr. ar. 52, ff. 146 r -147 v (on Christ's divine and human acts). Abu 
Sakir's citation of the Kitab Ustat al-Rahib in the forty-third chapter of the Kitab al-burhan, 
Vatican ar. 104 (autograph of 1282 A.D.), ff. 224 v -224a r , precisely matches Mingana chr. ar. 52, 
ff. 170V9-15, 171 r /3-6, 199 r /15-199 v /15, and 200 r /l-200 v /4. 

154. His apology includes a refutation of the Melkites and the Nestorians: Mingana chr. ar. 52, 
ff. 163 r -171 v . This, incidently, proves impossible Sbath's suggestion that the author of the Kitab 
Ustat be identified with a Melkite patriarch of Alexandria who died in 806; SBATH, "Ulama"' 
(1965), 278. 

155. IBN al-NADIM, Fihrist (1929-30), 341 [ET DODGE, Fihrist (1970), 586]; IBN ABI USAYBI'AH, 
'Uyun (1965), 281. 

156. IBN al-NADIM, Fihrist (1929-30), 352 [ET DODGE, Fihrist (1970), 6061 

157. For example, see below, pp. 210-11, 251-53. 


1. A collection of the Old Testament prophecies of the passion and death of 
Christ, with explanations as to how they were fulfilled according to the New 
Testament, (ff. 40 v -43 r ) 

2. A response to the assertion that if the passion had been prophesied, then 
the Jews had no guilt in bringing it to fulfillment, (ff. 49 v -51 r ) 

3. A lengthy passage on alleged contradictions in the gospels, including the 
Muslim's claim of a contradiction with respect to the thieves crucified with 
Christ (f. 74 r ) and Eustathius' response (f. 100 v -101 r ). 

4. A review of salvation history, from the fall of Adam and Satan's 
ascendancy over humankind to Christ's obedience in temptation, his 
crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, and the mission of the apostles, 
(ff. 108 v -116 v ) 

5. A lengthy response to the Muslim's reproof of the Christians for their 
"worship of a God who was born and nursed, who hungered and thirsted, ate 
and drank, became tired, fled and feared, was beaten and crucified, cried out 
for help, died, and was buried" (ff. 145 v -157 v ). This passage includes: 

(a) The Muslim's charge, and Eustathius' initial response: Christ, while 
manifesting all human attributes apart from sin, surpassed human capacities, 
(ff. 145 v -147 v ) 

(b) An explanation of "God . . . was crucified" (ff. 150 v -152 r ), with 
answers to particular questions: 

(i) Why Christians are not ashamed of the crucifixion, (ff. 150 v -151 r ) 

(ii) How Christians can glory in the crucixion when in the Torah 
[Deuteronomy 21:23] it is written, "Every crucified person is accursed." 
(ff. 151 r -152 r ) 

(c) An explanation of "God . . . died" (ff. 152 r -157 v ). Eustathius considers 
the three meanings of "death" (the physical death that is evident to sight, the 
separation of the soul from the body, and the death of sin), and considers the 
death of Christ in terms of this analysis in order to emphasize its mysterious 
and ungraspable character. In the course of the discussion he replies to 
objections and advances other arguments, including: 

(i) Objection: Does not "God . . . died" imply change in God? Eustathius' 
response, (ff. 154 v -155 r ) 

(ii) Objection: According to Eustathius' own argument, Christ did not die at 
all, but subbiha lahum. The monk's response, (f. 155 r - v ) 

(iii) Use of humanity/divinity distinction, body/soul analogy, (ff. 155 v -156 r ) 

(iv) How it may be said that God died and is alive at once. (f. 157 r - v ) 


6. A refutation of the Melkites (ff. 163 r -167 r ) and Nestorians (ff. 167 r -171 v ), which 
places Eustathius' language about Christ's death in its intra-communal polemical 

7. An apology for the veneration of icons (ff. 190 r -193 v ), which has a number of 
features in common with other writers' apologies for the veneration of the cross, 
notably its calling attention to Muslims' veneration of the Black Stone of the Ka'bah 
(f. 192 r - v ). 

E. Two Theological Compilations of the Later Ninth Century 

1. "The Compilation of the Aspects of the Faith" (al-Gami' wuguh al-lman) 

Selected Literature: 

GCAL II, 16-20 (#15). ISCH, "Bibliographic" 12.8.3. HADDAD, Trinite (1985), 59-62. 
NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 138-42. 


See SAMIR, "Date," 353-55 + idem, "Litterature," 483. To the resulting list may be 
added the two leaves preserved as Mingana chr. ar. 170 (9th a). The present study will 
generally refer to the oldest and most complete copy of the work, BL or. 4950 
(877 A.D.), ff. l r -197 v . 


MA'LUF, "Aqdam al-mahtutat" (1903) [free transcription of Chapters 5-8], reproduced in 
CHEIKHO, Vingt traites, 108-20. SAMIR, "Salb" (1984) [ed. of Chapter 18, Question #5]. 
Sidney H. GRIFFITH is preparing an ed. and ET of the entire work. 

Additional studies 

SAMIR, "Citations" (1983). Idem, "Date" (1985). GRIFFITH, "Kerygma" (1985). Idem, 
"Arabic" (1986). Idem, "Summa" (1986). SAMIR, "Somme" (1986). Idem, "Litterature" 
(1990) 482-83. GRIFFITH, "Kalam" (1990). Idem, "Islam" (1990). 

This great theological compendium Griffith likes to call it the Summa 
Theologiae Arabica^ 5S ~> - has resisted attempts of scholars to pin down its authorship 
and date. The frequently-suggested attribution of the work to Theodore Abu 

158. See, for example, GRIFFITH, "Summa" (1986). 


Qurrah* 159 ) \ s probably to be declined; it will be shown below that, with regard to 
soteriology and the cult of the cross, there are major differences between al-Gdmi' 
and the standard corpus of Theodore's writings. For now, the author is best left an 
anonymous Melkite, perhaps from Mesopotamia.* 160 ) 

As for the date of writing, the text itself creates confusion by supplying two 
dates which appear to be contradictory: 800 years "and more" since the destruction of 
the Temple* 161 ) (i.e. after 870 A.D.), and 825 years since the abolition (ibtdl) of 
Judaism.* 162 ) Samir has argued* 163 ) that the former date represents a modification of 
the original text by the scribe of BL or. 4950, who wrote in 877 A.D., while the latter 
preserves the actual date of composition. But then, how do we date the "abolition of 
Judaism"? According to a number of old Arabic Melkite texts, this discontinuity in 
salvation history was marked by the rending of the temple veil during the crucifixion 
of Christ.* 164 ) A ninth-century Melkite monk would probably have understood this to 
have taken place on March 23, 6634 of the Alexandrian world era of Annianos, or 42 
A.D.* 165 ) The probable date of composition of the work, then, is 
42 + 825 = 867 A.D.* 166 ) 

The author of al-Gdmi' was motivated to produce his compilation of orthodox 
Christian teaching by the phenomenon of groups of Christians who attempted to 
accomodate themselves doctrinally to Islam without taking leave of the Christian 
community.* 167 ' al-Gdmi' is therefore a work alert to the Islamic challenges to 
Christian faith, and in the course of its 25 chapters it includes many passages relevant 
to the present study: 

159. See SAMIR, "Somme " (1986). 

160. He refers to Jerusalem as part of ^jjLjl ^j', "the land of the West." See below, pp. 185-86 (#9). 

161. BL or. 4950, f. 154 r /17-18. 

162. Ibid., f. 156 r /16-18. 

163. "Date" (1985) 380-81. 

164. See, for example, the Arabic version of the Anaphora Pilati as found in Sinai ar. 508 and 445 
(GIBSON, Apocrypha (1896), 4*-5* [ET 4-5, with note 4]); al-Burhan of Peter of Bayt Ra's 
(CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61), I, 180 (#341), II, 56 (#488); and the sixth chapter of the Kitab 
al-burhan falsely attributed to Yahya b. 'Adi (PLATTI, "Christ" (1988), 269). This last-cited work is 
a clumsy Jacobite reworking of an older Melkite text. 

165. This is argued in detail in Swanson, "Dating" (1992). 

166. NASR ALLAH (Histoire (1988), 142) correctly associates the "abolition of Judaism" with the rending 
of the Temple veil, but does not consider questions of chronology. 

The two dates given by al-Gdmi' do not now seem to be quite as contradictory as previously 
thought. Writing in 867, the author may well have given the number 800 as the (round) number 
of years since the destruction of the Temple. A later reader or scribe then added the gloss 
wa-aktar to bring the figure up to date. 

167. See especially GRIFFITH, "Kalam" (1990). 


1. Chapters 7-8:< 168 > on the redemption worked by Christ. He freed us from 
slavery and curse of the Law (Ch. 7), gave us knowledge of eternal life, and 
defeated Satan (Ch. 8). 

2. Chapter 9: on the necessity of Christ's full humanity to his redemptive 
work. The chapter repeats many of the ideas of the preceding chapters. 

3. Chapter 10: on the one Christ, whose human and divine attributes may be 
carefully sorted between his humanity and divinity only for apologetic and 
catechetical purposes. 

4. Chapter 13: Old Testament witnesses to the life of Christ, including his 
passion and death (at BL or. 4950, ff. 61 r -63 v ). 

5. Chapter 14, "On the Viewpoints that Exclude Their Adherents from the 
Christian Community": 

(a) #11: on Christ's freedom throughout his passion. 

(b) #12: on the one Christ, and against those who would strictly sort his 
attributes between his two natures (cf. Chapter 10). 

6. Chapter 17: questions about the Gospels (including many posed regularly 
by Muslim controversialists): 

(a) #11: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" 

(b) #19: Christ's battle with Satan. 

(c) #24: the temptation of Christ. 

(d) #25: Christ's public death on the cross. 

(e) #27: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." 

(f) #28: the "three days and three nights" in the grave. 

(g) #29: the forty days following the resurrection. 

6. Chapter 18: responses to questions asked by Muslims and dualists: 

(a) #4: on Christ's incarnation, death, and resurrection as that which 
allows one to infer the reality of the general resurrection. 

(b) #5: on Christ's freely-chosen death, and the guilt of the Jews. 

(c) #8: on the veneration of the cross. 

7: Chapter 23: on prayer, in particular prayer before the cross. 

168. The internal divisions of the work are clearly indicated in the manuscripts. 


2. Peter of Bayt Ra's: "The Demonstration" (al-Burhan) 
Selected Literature: 

GCAL II, 35-38. ISCH, "Bibliographic" 12.22.2. HADDAD, Trinite (1985), 63-65. 
NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 31-34, 143-45. 


See GCAL II, 38 + NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 144 + SAMIR, "Litterature" (1990), 

484. Also, the work was once present at the end of the manuscript which is now 

Sinai, ar. 447 (13th a), according to the index on the back of the front cover. 

Edition, translation 

CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61) [ET WATT, Demonstration (1960-61)1 
Additional studies 

GRAF, "Eutychius" (1911). Idem, "Werk" (1912). BREYDY, Etudes (1983), 29-87. 
SAMIR, "Litterature" (1990), 483-485. SW ANSON, "Ibn Taymiyya" (1990). 

The lengthy Melkite compilation^ 169 ' which goes under the name of "The 
Demonstration" was for many years thought to be a work of Eutychius (Said b. 
Batrlq), Melkite patriarch of Alexandria from 933 until his death in 940.( ,70 > Recently, 
however, Michel Breydy has decisively refuted the attribution of the work to 
Eutychius/ 171 ' and on the basis of attributions in the three oldest manuscripts 
authorship may be confidently attributed to one Peter of Bayt Ra's (Capitolias)/ 172 ' not 
the martyr of 715 AD./ 173 ' but rather a bishop( m ) who probably lived toward the end 
of the ninth century A.D.< 175 > 

169. The work opens with a passage taken directly from John of Damascus, De fide orthodoxa 1,3 
(KOTTER, Expositio Fidei (1973), 10-12) and concludes with an Arabic recension of Q. 137 of the 
pseudo-Athanasian "Questions Addressed to Antiochus the Dux" (PG 28, 684-700). 

170. This was the widely-accepted thesis of GRAF, "Eutychius" (1911). 

171. BREYDY, Etudes (1983), 29-87. 

172. This is what we find in Sinai ar. 75 (9th/10th a), f. 102 v ; Vatican ar. 491 (1234 A.D.), f. 127 r ; Sinai 
ar. 441 (mid-13th a), f. 121 r . Furthermore, the index on the inside front cover of Sinai ar. 447 
(13th c. A.D.) indicates that the (now incomplete) manuscript once ended with ■ 1 i^j-ll jL*j-Jl 
Lr - ' j c . .11 ("The Demonstration' by Peter of Bayt Ra's"). 

173. See PEETERS, "S. Pierre" (1939). This martyr was a priest, not a bishop, remarkable more for his 
determined pursuit of martyrdom than for his theological acumen. 

174. The evidence of Sin. ar. 441, f. 121 r (marginal attribution: ^'j c...; I^jJw Jei..' ("bishop of Bayt 

Ra's")) and 233 r (colophon: ^'j c r > i »-Uo ("sahib of Bayt Ra's," sahib being a common Arabic 

title for a bishop)) is decisive here. 

175. Sinai ar. 75 can be assigned to the late 9th/early 10th century on the basis of paleography, 
confirmed by the statement of Bishop Solomon of Mt. Sinai, dated 392 H./1002 A.D., that the 
manuscript had been in the possession of his grandfather (f. 222 v ). Breydy's attempts to cast 


Although the language of al-Burhdn often reflects the Islamic religious 
lexicon,' 176 ) for the most part Islam remains well in the background. Peter is more 
concerned to provide a Damascene-like compilation of Christian doctrine in Arabic 
and to urge the neo-Chalcedonian christology over against Nestorians and Jacobites 
than he is to answer Islamic objections to Christian belief. As a result, Peter's 
compilation will be cited in the present study much less frequently than al-Gami 
wuguh al-iman. 

al-Burhdn is divided into four very loosely connected parts, referred to below 
as Books I-IV.C 77 ) 

1. Book I begins with a demonstration of God's existence and triunity, but 
then proceeds to a treatment of christological and soteriological issues: 

(a) A lengthy passage relates the biblical history from creation and fall 
to the Incarnation. (#72-129) 

(b) The following discussion of Christ's hypostatic unity, true divinity, 
and true humanity (#130-94) concludes with a consideration of his passion, 
resurrection, and ascension (#190-94). 

(c) The section that follows (#195-272) shows how redemption through 
the Incarnation of God in Christ reflects God's perfect power, mercy, justice 
and wisdom, and includes a number of passages of interest to the present 
study, especially: 

(i) A description of humanity's fall under the dominion of the Devil and its 
redemption through the Word's Incarnation, death (#226-29), and resurrection. 

(ii) A discussion of the justice and cunning of God's dealings with and 
victory over the Devil. (#232-43) 

(d) Finally, there is a discussion of Christ's gifts to humankind 
(#273-400), including: 

(i) The cross, which is the third gift mentioned (after Baptism and the 
Eucharist). (#288-293) 

(ii) The Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem which, as one of "the 
vestiges and the places of [Christ's] holiness in the world" (#310), bears 
witness to Christ's passion and resurrection. (#338-343) 

2. Book II is a presentation and commentary on Old Testament testimonies 
(sahddat), predominantly of a typological nature, to the incarnation and 
career of Christ, including his passion and death (#419-457, 488-489, 498). As 

doubt on the 9th/10th century dating of Sinai ar. 75 (BREYDY, Etudes (1983), 91) can 
be disregarded; he cannot have consulted the film of the manuscript. 

176. Examples are given in WATT, Demonstration (1960-61), I, iii-iv. 

177. References below are to the numbered paragraphs of the paired edition of Cachia and 
translation of Watt. 


Graf pointed out, this Book is not a translation but an original Arabic 
composition/ 178 ^ 

3. Book III is another collection of Old Testament testimonies, but of a 
different sort: passages taken to refer to Christ are reproduced without 
commentary in the order in which they appear in the Old Testament. 
Included are a few Old Testament passages understood as foretelling the 
passion of Christ (#508, 514, 520, 535, 590). 

4. Book IV is an Arabic recension of Question 137 of the pseudo-Athanasian 
"Questions Addressed to Antiochus the Dux" (PG 28, 684-700), which 
contains an important collection of Old Testament passion predictions 

F. Additional Texts of Uncertain Age 

The texts listed below resist attempts to date them, but are included either 
because other students of the literature have suggested eighth- or ninth-century dates 
for them, or because I myself suspect that such a date may be correct. 

1. "Questions and Rational and Divine Responses" 

(Masa'il wa-agwibah 'aqliyyah wa-ildhiyyah) 

Selected Literature: 

HADDAD, Trinite (1985), 38. 

Sinai ar. 434 (1138 A.D.), ff. 171 r -181 v . 

This little work, which Rachid Haddad brought to the attention of the 
scholarly world, is the response of a monk to questions concerning the Trinity and the 
Incarnation posed by a Muslim sayh of Jerusalem, who had read a book refuting the 
Christians (al-Radd 'aid l-Nasard). Haddad found enough similarities between it and 
ancient texts such as Fi tat lit Allah al-wdhid ("On the Triune God") or the papyrus 

178. See GRAF, "Eutychius" (1911), 232. 


fragments published by Graf* 179 ' to date it to the same period, i.e. ca. 780. This is, 
however, a guess, and the text could well date from a considerably later period. 

The crucifixion of Christ is mentioned twice. In a passage on the 
divinely (and not humanly) empowered spread of the Christian faith, miracles 
performed "in the name of the Crucified" are mentioned (f. 178 r - v ). In 
another passage, among the witnesses to Christ's divinity are "the dead on the 
day of his crucifixion" (f. 179 r ). 

2. "The Belief of the Orthodox Christians"* 180 > 
Selected Literature: 

HADDAD, Trinite (1985), 62-63; NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 146 (#7). 

Sinai ar. 453 (12th a), ff. l r -13 v . 

Another interesting text preserved in the Sinai archive and rediscovered by 
Rachid Haddad is this brief profession of the faith of the seven ecumenical councils. 
Once again, we are unable to date the text with any precision. On the basis of its 
concern with Manichaeism and its affirmation of seven ecumenical councils, including 
Nicaea II (787 A.D.), Haddad suggests that the text fits well into the second half of the 
ninth century* 18 " while Nasrallah opts for the early years of the tenth.* 182 ) 

However, there is a considerable amount of evidence that leading Melkite 
churchmen in the Dar al-lslam were entirely unaware of the seventh ecumenical 
council for many years after its occurrence.* 183 ' Theodore Abu Qurrah is silent about 
it, e.g. in his treatise on the icons, written after the turn of the ninth century and very 
likely in its second decade.* 184 ' Neither the author of al-Gami' wuguh al-iman nor 
Peter of Bayt Ra's in al-Burhan are promoters of icon-piety; rather, their works 
appear to reflect a Melkite church making do without man-made images.* 185 > And 
even Sa'id b. Bitriq, who died in 940 as Eutychius, Melkite patriarch of Alexandria, 

179. GRAF, "Texte" (1934). 

180. The full title is j. T .Jt\.iS\ »U^I jL^Vl J-^Jl Ua» ^\ j-^L—Jl ^jLajJl ili^l 

£_.L>w ll ("The belief of the Christians who rightly believe the faith which the pure Apostles 

defined and which the holy Fathers established in seven councils"). 

181. HADDAD, Trinite (1985), 62-63. 

182. NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 146. 

183. See especially GRIFFITH, "Eutychius" (1982). 

184. See DICK, Icdnes (1986), viii-ix or 24-26. 

185. See below, pp. 269-70. 


knows nothing of a seventh iconophile council in his Annals.^v "The Belief of the 
Orthodox Christians," however, explicitly names and describes this council. The 
balance of probability, then, is that this text should not be dated before the mid-tenth 
century, when Byzantine military advances and shifting frontiers resulted in the 
opening of new avenues of communication between Melkite Christians in the oriental 
patriarchates and their Byzantine co-religionists. 

The passages of interest to us here are, at ff. 7 v -8 r , a brief description 
of Christ's voluntary acceptance of a real death (understood in the context of 
the two-nature christology), through which, with his resurrection, he 
redeemed humanity; and at f. 9 V the author's affirmation of prostration to 
the wood of the [True] Cross, as well as to any image of the cross. 

3. "On the Sufferings of Our Lord Christ"( 187 > 

HADDAD, Trinite (1985), 78. 

Sinai ar. 553 (1182 A.D.), ff. 30 v -39 v . 

Again it was Rachid Haddad who drew attention to this manuscript, in 
particular to its opening section containing answers to questions on the Trinity and 
Incarnation (ff. l r -4 r ) and a Melkite profession of faith (ff. 4 r -7 v ), "the date of which 
is unknown, but which nevertheless leaves the impression of a great antiquity.''^ 188 ) 
The section discussed by Haddad is followed, after a list of the great prophets (ff. 
7 v -8 r ) and a presentation of the pagan sages' prophecies of Christ (ff. 8 r -30 v ), by a 
chapter on the passion of Christ (ff. 30 v -39 v ), and a collection of Old Testament 
prophecies of his Incarnation and passion (ff. 39 v -40 v ). 

The chapter "On the Sufferings of Our Lord Christ, and the Statement of the 
Intellect Concerning Them" is an ill-organized treatise in very corrupt Arabic, which 
furthermore is incomplete in the form in which we have itJ 189 > It is an apologetic 

186. GRIFFITH, "Eutychius" (1982), esp. 173. I assume that the part of the Annals discussed here by 
Griffith is indeed to be attributed to Sa'Id b. Bitriq. Unfortunately, Sa'id's autograph, Sinai ar. 582 
which has been published and translated by BREYDY (Annalenwerk (1985)), breaks off before this 
point in his chronicle is reached. 

187. This appears to be an excerpt from some larger work. The section title reads (Sin. ar. 553, f. 30 v ): 
Lf-La JLJl J^ii £— Jl UaL. ^ [\JS\ LJlill iJLUl jj. J,\Jd\ ^Ul ("The second bab of 
the second maqalah and fourth (?): On the sufferings of our Lord Christ, and the statement of 
the intellect concerning them"). 

188. HADDAD, Trinite (1985), 78. 


work, occasioned by the author's concern about "groups among our brethren who mix 
with strange communities . . . and who have sought the praise of the world."* 190 ) 
(Later in the text, in the course of an appeal to the reader not to abandon the 
Christian faith, it becomes clear that the "strange communities" that the author has in 
mind are the Muslims/ 191 )) In particular, these groups of wavering Christians had 
come to deny the double predication of divine and human attributes and activities to 
Christ. As the author (surprisingly) puts it: "They affirm the divine aspects of the 
actions of our Lord Jesus Christ and deny the bodily ones."* 192 ) The text is an attempt 
to show that both divine and human activities must and can intelligibly be attributed 
to Christ. 

The motivation for writing is very similar to that of al-Gami' wuguh 
al-imdn and suggests a date in the ninth century. This is merely a suggestion, 
however. The puzzling "On the Sufferings of Our Lord Christ" awaits a more 
thorough study. 

To show that Christ's sufferings do not affect his divine nature, the 
author uses analogies: the sun which is unaffected by the destruction of a 
house on which it shines (f. 31 r - v ), or the holy contents of a church which are 
unaffected by the abuse of its outer walls (f. 38 r ). Christ's human activities, 
including his crucifixion and death are listed at f. 36 r . Miracles in the name 
of "Jesus Christ of Nazareth who underwent the passion in Jerusalem" are 
mentioned at f. 37 r . The redemptive work of Christ is described in the same 

4. "The Letter of Leo" preserved in Latin 
Selected Literature: 

ISCH, "Bibliographic" 13.15 

None are known. GERO, Iconoclasm (1973), 154-62, describes the editio princeps of 
the work, Symphorianus CHAMPERIS (ed.), De triplici disciplina, Lyon: 1508, and 
discusses the claims of Champeris to have translated it into Latin from Chaldaean (sic!). 


PG 107, 315-24 

189. At least one leaf is missing between f. 34 and f. 35. 

190. pJUl £X. I^JLU j . . . -LjyJl ^Vl oj]el\±~ (I LJI >i [SJ^j Ur, Sinai ar. 553, ff. 30 v -31 r . 

191. See below, p. 131. 

192. oLJU— . >Jl 0)^~t) Jl ^>~i Lj*4- JUi' [lJLS'1 oUycML UjyL* ; Sinai ar. 553, f. 31 r . 


Additional studies 

GERO, Iconcoclasm (1973), 44-47, 153-71. KHOURY, Theologiens (1969), 200-18. 

Arabic, Armenian and (to an extent) Greek sources^ 193 * have preserved reports 
of an exchange of letters between the Umayyad caliph 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz (717-20) 
and the Byzantine emperor Leo III (717-41). This tradition appears to have provided 
Muslims and Christians with a literary form for the production of anonymous 
apologetic or polemical works. In addition to the "Letter of 'Umar" considered 
below/ 1 ?-*) three "Letters of Leo" are known: an Armenian letter responding to the 
"Letter of 'Umar"; an Arabic letter preserved in Sinai ar. NF pap. 14 (ca. 10th a); and a 
Latin letter attributed, in the form in which we have it, to the philosopher-emperor 
Leo VI (886-912). Of these three Christian letters, the first was probably composed in 
Armenian/ 195 ^ and the second, although an original Arabic composition, remains 
unpublished and inaccessible/ 196 ) The Latin letter of Leo, however, has every 
appearance of being a translation (with slight Westernizing modifications) of an 
Arabic Melkite original/ 197 ) 

It is not at all clear how the text is to be dated. One very specific suggestion 
was made in passing by Armand Abel, who asserted that the text (for which he 
assumed a Greek original) was written during the reign of the last iconoclast emperor 
Theophilus (829-42), a period into which the Letter's references to Constantine and the 
victory-giving cross and its anti-iconophile characteristics might fit/ 198 ) These 
arguments, however, are not very convincing. The use of the Constantine tradition 

193. Listed in GERO, Iconoclasm (1973), 44-46. Note that Theophanes, followed by Cedrenus, records 
that 'Umar sent a letter to Leo but does not mention a response. Of course, these iconophile 
historians did not consider the iconoclast Leo a defender of the faith!). 

194. See pp. 104-8. Another "Letter of 'Umar" is found in the Armenian "History" of "pseudo-Levond" 
(see next note), where it sets the stage for the Armenian 'Letter of Leo." FT: CHAHNAZARIAN, 
Histoire (1858), 40-42. 

195. The letter is found in the "History" of Levond, or rather "pseudo-Levond," the 11th or 12th 
century reviser of Levond's 8th century local history. FT: CHAHNAZARIAN, Histoire (1858), 
where the letter is found at pp. 42-97. An ET of the letter is JEFFERY, "Text" (1944), 269-332. 
GERO {Iconoclasm (1973), 162-71) argues that Armenian is the original language of composition. 
Perhaps, however, his arguments should be reconsidered in the light of GAUDEUL, "Letter" (1984), 
which demonstrates that this letter is a point-by-point response to an Arabic controversial writing. 

196. There is a reasonably clear photograph of the first two pages of the text in MEIMARES, 
Catalogue (1985), 116, photograph 87, of which I have prepared a transcription. 

197. So GERO, Iconoclasm (1973), 153-62, who gives as an example of the Arabic "feel" of the work 
the phrase "cujus nomen est benedictum" ( = <u^,\ lljLJ) after a mention of God (p. 159). 

198. ABEL, "St. Theodore" (1949), 234-35, esp. note 38. 


hardly permits such a specific dating, and any apologist (at least, any Byzantine 
apologist) writing a "Letter of Leo" would have known to omit any iconophile 
sentiments. According to Gero, the letter "could have been written anytime between 
the eighth and the fifteenth century."^) 

I would lean toward a date in the ninth or tenth century, in keeping with the 
other letters of '"Umar" and "Leo" in our possession. The Latin "Letter of Leo" 
certainly contains a number of arguments common to Arabic Christian texts of the 
ninth century, such as its response to the question about God being present, through 
the Incarnation, in the impurity of a woman's womb/ 200 ) or the charge that Muslims 
learned from a Nestorian heretic/ 20 " The author's use of the Constantine tradition 
may indicate that he lived at a time when Byzantine military successes made it 
possible to speak of gaining victory "by virtue of the holy cross,"* 202 ) that is, in the 
late ninth or tenth centuries. 

The letter contains several passages of some relevance to the present study/ 203 ) 

1. A collection of Old Testament witnesses to the Trinity and to Christ's 
divinity, Incarnation, and earthly career (317B-318B), including Deuteronomy 
28:66, Psalm 22:16b, 18, and Isaiah 53:3-4. 

2. A presentation of the biblical history of humankind's rebellion, and God's 
response in the Incarnation. (318D-320AB) 

3. A christological section presenting several points of interest: (a) In what 
is surely a reference to al-Nisa' (4):156-57, "Leo" correctly points to an Islamic 
text that states that the Jews spoke a "mighty calumny" against Mary, but 
incorrectly reports that, according to that text, the Jews crucified Christ. 
(320BC) (b) The following section on the adoration of Christ shares many 
features with the traditional justification for the veneration of icons and the 
cross. (320CD) 

4. "Leo's" justification of the cult of the cross, which includes the stories of 
Constantine's vision and his victory "by virtue of the holy cross" and of the 
invention of the True Cross by St. Helena. (322A-D) 

199. GERO, Iconoclasm (1973), 161. 

200. PG 107, 321A. This question is raised in "The Letter of 'Umar" (SOURDEL, "Pamphlet" (1966), 
27/6-9), and met in al-Gami' wuguh al-iman Chapter 18, Question #6 (BL or. 4950, ff. 119 r -120 v ) 
and elsewhere. 

201. PG 107, 322A. Cf. the "Apocalypse/Legend of Bahira." 

202. Ibid., 322C. 

203. References are made, of course, to the edition in PG 107. 


5. "The Refutation of the One Who Denies the Crucifixion''^ 204 ) 
Selected Literature: 

GCAL II, 472 (#3). 

Vatican ar. 107 (15th a), ff. 106 r -107 v . The same text is found with glosses in a 12th 
century Nestorian compilation, the "Commentary on the Creed of the 318 Fathers of 
the Council of Nicea" (GCAL II, 190-91; ISCH, "Bibliographic" 22.14), preserved in Sbath 
(Aleppo) 1129 (17th c.) and probably in Sbath Fihris #2252 (SBATH, Fihris (1938-39), III, 


In Appendix II to the dissertation, below, pp. 297-306. An edition of part of the 
"Commentary on the Creed of the 318 Fathers of the Council of Nicea" is the doctoral 
dissertation of Pierre MASSRI for the PISAI (Rome), and is being prepared for 

This anonymous Nestorian^ 205 ) text cannot be dated with any certainty. It was 
used by the author of the 11th (?) century Nestorian encyclopaedia, the Kitab 
al-magdaip 06 '> who expanded and reworked its refutation of the claim of tasblh in 
rhymed prose (sag')- (207) Its oldest attestation in integral form is in the anonymous 
Nestorian "Commentary on the Creed," dated by its editor to ca. 1160 A.D. In terms 
of content, I find nothing in the "Refutation" that precludes a ninth century date. The 
kernel of its refutation of tasblh is already to be found in the discussion of the 
catholicos Timothy I with the Abbasid caliph al-Mahdi, while its use of Al 'Imran 
(3):169 is echoed in tenth-century Isma'ili Muslim texts.< 208 > 

204. In Vatican ar. 107 the work is entitled Oj.l.,<all ^s- while in Sbath 1129 the section 
is headed i LaII ■Xx^- ^Ja < >l 

205. Not only are the earliest attestations of this text in Nestorian compilations, but a number of turns 
of phrase are characteristically Nestorian, for example the reference to Christ as masih 
wa-mamsuh, "anointer and anointed"; see below, p. 299 (#3). 

206. GCAL II, 200-2; LANDRON, "Apologetique" (1978), 166-84. 

207. The passage is found at the end of Bab 3, fasl 4 ("The Cross"); see, for example, Paris ar. 190, pp. 
295-99, or Vat. ar. 107, ff. 106 r -107 v . The same passage is copied as an independent apology, 
al-Radd 'aid man yadda'i al-tasbih, in Vat. ar. 141, ff. U7 r -119 r and Vat. ar. 570, ff. 32 v -41 r . 

Comparison of the unrhymed and rhymed recensions of the text leads to the conclusion that 
the (unrhymed) recension of Vat. ar. 107 represents the older form of the text, which on the one 
hand was put into sag' by the author of the Kitab al-magdal, and on the other was glossed by 
the author of the "Commentary on the Creed." The comparison is necessary because Massri has 
discovered instances where the author of the "Commentary" has used the Kitab al-magdal as a 
source, converting its rhymed into normal prose. 

208. See below, p. 144. 


Both the abrupt beginning of the text and the lack, of a fixed title suggest that 
it is an excerpt from a larger work. It may very well come from one of the many 
ninth-century Nestorian apologies which are at present lost, the existence of which we 
know especially from the cataloguing activities of Paul Sbath.< 209 ) 

A brief outline of the "Refutation" follows:^ 10 ' 

The author begins by arguing that Al 'Imran (3):55 implies that Jesus 
died first, and then afterwards was raised. (#1) 

1. Muslim objection: Linguistically, Arabic allows for the expression of 
verbs in the reverse order of their chronological occurrence. 

Response: al-Md'idah (5):117 supports the case that the verb order 
reflects the temporal order: God caused Jesus to die, and then was the 
watcher over them (the Christians!). (#2) 

2. Muslim objection: According to al-Nisd' (4):157, Jesus did not die. 


(a) The humanity, not the divinity was killed. "It appeared to" the Jews 
that they had put an end to Jesus, but were mistaken. (#3) 

(b) The Jews did not kill Christ in the sense that they did not, as they 
intended, put an end to his affair; their action was instead the cause of his 
exaltation and the worldwide spread of his movement. (#4-6) This agrees 
with an interpretation of al-Nisd' (4):157 in the light of Al 'Imrdn (3):169: 
one may deny that Jesus was crucified and died, because he was crucified 
and died fl sabil Allah. (#7) 

(c) The subbiha lahum of al-Nisd' (4):157 is incoherent. Who is the 
subject of al-tasbih (in the sense of bringing it to pass that someone 
resembling Christ was crucified): God, Christ, Satan, or the Jewish leaders? 
(#8) Each possibility is examined and rejected. (#9-15) 

(d) Conclusion: The prophets and Jesus himself foretold the crucifixion, 
the Jews admit to it, and Jesus' partisans were eyewitnesses. (#16) 


SBATH, Fihris (1938-39). For a convenient compilation of ninth-century Nestorian apologists and 
their works, see LANDRON, "Apologetique" (1978), Chapter 5. 

Reference is made to the numbered sections of my edition of the text, below, pp. 297-306. 



A. The Sources 

1. Early Qur'an interpretation: the Tafslr al-Tabarl 
Selected Literature: 

ISCH, "Bibliographic" 11.1. CHARFI, Radd (1986), 114-21 (#1). 

Editions of the Tafslr al-Tabarl. 

TABARI, Tafslr (1954-57) [older, but complete, edition]. 
TABARI, Tafslr (1955-) [SAKIR edition, excellent but incompletel 

Additional studies 

CHARFI, "Christianity" (1980). Also see the literature cited at pp. 102-10 below. 

The study of the Islamic attitude towards Christian belief in the death of Christ 
must, naturally, begin with the Qur'an. One quickly discovers, however, that the 
relevant material is quite limited; of the 93 Qur'anic verses dedicated to Jesus, only 
one directly mentions the claim that he was crucified, while only two directly 
mention his being raised by God. And yet these very limited Qur'anic data gave rise 
to a great deal of explanation of and speculation about the end of Christ's apostolic 

For the purposes of the present study, by far the most important collection of 
these explanations and speculations is the Qur'an commentary of Abu Ga'far 
Muhammad b. Garir al-Tabari (829-923). al-Tabari's commentary is a great mine of 
older material, preserving large parts of collections that may have been fixed in 
writing a century and more before he made his compilation.^ 211 ) Therefore his work 
is of the greatest importance for understanding Muslims' ideas about Jesus' (escape 
from) crucifixion as they developed in the period preceding that from which we 
possess Arabic Christian-Muslim controversial texts. 

The most important passages in al-Tabari's commentary for this 
purpose are his commentaries on:< 212 > 

(a) Al 'Imran (3):54-55 (III, 289-92 / VI, 455-61), 

(b) al-Nisa' (4):157-58 (VI, 12-18 / IX, 367-76), and 

(c) al-Saff (61):14 (XXVIII, 92 / ). 


See below, p. 102, note 25. 

References are made first to the complete edition of Garni' al-bayan, TABARI, Tafslr (1954-57), 
and then to the superior but incomplete edition of Sakir, TABARl, (1955-). 


2. TheHadith 
Selected Literature: 

ISCH, "Bibliographic" 11.2. CHARFI, Radd (1986), 121-23 (#2). 

Editions and translations of the standard hadith collections: 

(a) BUHARI, Sahlh (1862-1908). ET: KHAN, Bukhari (1971). 

(b) MUSLIM, Sahlh (1929-31). ET: A. SIDDIQj, Muslim (1973-75). 

(c) TIRMIDl Sunan (1965-68). 

(d) ABU DA'UD, Sunan (1952). ET: HASSAN, Abu Da'ud (1984). 

(e) IBN MAGAH, Sunan (1952-53). 

(f) IBN HANBAL, Musnad (1895-96). 

Additional studies 

ZAYYAT, Croix (1935), 16-17. WENSINCK, Concordance (1936-88) [indispensable tool, 
with which the editions listed above are compatible]. 

The hadith literature is a great source of early Muslim attitudes concerning the 
cross. The following hadith reports (or groups of related reports) might be mentioned: 

L The hadith reports concerning Christ's return: 

A frequently recurring set of hadith reports describe Christ and his 
actions upon his return to the earth. All versions of the report are agreed 
that he will "break the cross and kill the swine." See:< 213 > 

BUHARI II, 40 (buyu' 102); 107 (mazalim 31); 370 (anbiya 49). 

MUSLIM I, 135 (iman 242). 

TIRMIDl VII, 10-11 (titan 54). 

ABU DA'UD II, 430-32 (malahlm 14). 

IBN MAGAH II, 1363 (fitan 33). 

IBN HANBAL II, 240, 272, 290, 394, 406, 411, 437, 482-83, 493-94, 538. 

2. "The cross has triumphed" 

Another hadith report, generally to be found in an eschatological 
context, describes how a truce between the Muslims and the Byzantines is 
broken when a Christian raises a cross and declares, "The cross has 

ABU DA'UD II, 424-25 {malahlm 2). 
IBN MAGAH II, 1369 {fitan 35). 
IBN HANBAL IV, 91; V, 371-72, 409. 


For the following lists, editions of the hadith collections are referred to solely by the 
name of the compiler. References are given to chapter and section number, where 


3. Worshippers of the cross on the Day of Judgment 

According to these hadith reports, on the Day of Judgment the 
peoples will be called to present themselves with that which they worshipped 
- such as the cross. 

BUHARI IV, 463 (tawhld 24). 
TIRMIDI VII, 234 (sifat al-gannah 20). 

4. 'Adi b. Hatim's golden cross 

'Adi approached the Prophet with a golden cross around his neck, and 
was told to throw the idol away. 

TIRMIDI VIII, 248 (tafslr surah 9). 

TABARI, Tafslr (1954-57), X, 114 (on al-Tawbah (9):31). 

5. Muhammad's mission 

According to one hadith report, Muhammad described himself as sent 
to destroy musical instruments, idols, and crosses. 


6. Muhammad's attitude toward cross-patterns in garments, etc. 

Another set of hadith reports state that Muhammad did not allow 
anything with a cross-pattern in his house. 

BUHARI, IV, 104 (libas 90). 
ABU DA'UD II, 391 (libas 44). 
IBN HANBAL VI, 52, 237, 252. 

7. The woman with crosses on her garment 

In a similar vein, another set of hadith reports tell that 'A'isah saw a 
woman with a cross-pattern in her garment and told her to remove it, as the 
Prophet would not have countenanced it. 

IBN HANBAL VI, 140, 216, 225. 

8. The legal consequences of breaking a cross 

A legal issue, brought up but not discussed in al-Buhari (but discussed 
by later Muslim jurists) is whether one who breaks a cross made of 
intrinsically worthless materials is liable for damages. 

BUHARI II, 107 (mazalim 32) 


B. The Earliest Refutations of the Christians 

We do not know who was the first Muslim to write a refutation of the 
Christians, but for the origins of the radd ("refutation") genre we should probably 
look to the earliest Muslim mutakallimun in the later eighth century. The Melkite 
Christian author of the treatise Masd'il wa-agwibah 'aqliyyah wa-ildhiyyah, thought to 
be a work of the late eighth century, specifically states that he is responding to three 
issues raised in a work entitled al-Radd 'aid l-Nasdrd ("The Refutation of the 
Christians"). Whether or not the eighth-century dating of Masd'il is correct, the list 
of Muslims who wrote treatises with titles such as al-Radd 'aid l-Nasdrd before the 
mid-ninth century reads like a "Who's Who" of the early kaldm: Dirar b. 'Amr, Abu 
Rabf Muhammad b. al-Layt, Abu Sahl Bisr b. al-Mu'tammar, Abu Musa 'Isa b. Sabih 
al-Murdar, Abu l-Hudayl al-'Allaf, Abu Ga'far al-Iskafi, Hafs al-Fard.( 214 ) 
Unfortunately, all these works are (at present) lost. 

It is not until the mid-ninth century that texts representative of the Islamic 
"refutation of the Christians" genre are available to us. Several of these are listed 
below. (Another text, the refutation of Abu Isa Muhammad b. Harun al-Warraq, is 
left for the next section, reserved for the most dialectically sophisticted of the 
refutations of the Christians.) 

L Abu 'Utman 'Amr b. Bahr al-Gahiz (776-869) 
Selected Literature: 

GAL I, 152-53; S.I, 239-47. ISC hi, "Bibliographie" 11.13. 
CHARFI, Radd (1986), 137-40 (#7). 


See PELLAT, "Inventaire" (1984), esp. 129 (#19), 151-52 (#165), 163 (#239). For a fuller 
description of the MSS of al-Radd 'aid l-Nasdrd, see FINKEL, "Risala" (1927), 311-13. 

Editions, translations 

Kitab al-ahbar wa-kayfa tasihh: PELLAT, "Croyances" (1967) [ed. and FT of the passage 
of importance herel 

al-Radd 'aid l-Nasdra: FINKEL, Essays (1926) [ed. from Cairo, Taymur adab 19 
(presently in the Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyyah)]. FINKEL, "Risala" (1927) [partial ET 
of Finkel's ed.l ALLOUCHE, "Traite" (1939) [complete FT of Finkel's ed.]. 
PELLAT, Jdhiz (1969), 86-91 [ET of selected passages]. ABD AL-SALAM, al-Gdhiz 
(1979), III, 303-51 [critical edition]. SARQAWl, Muhtdr (1984) [a convenient 
reproduction (with some corrections) of Finkel's edition! 

214. See the list in CHARFI, Radd (1986), 163-64. 


Additional studies 

ANAWATI, "Polemique" (1969), 396-99. PELLAT, "Christologie" (1970). 

From time to time in his voluminous writings, the great Mu'tazilite 
litterateur al-Gahiz touched on questions concerning Christianity. As a 
mutakallim there was no avoiding comment on Christ, both as the Qur'an and the 
Christians presented him. As a social critic concerned to do battle with groups 
representing a danger to Islam, there was no avoiding comment on the Christian 
communities around him/ 215 ) 

Two works well illustrate these two aspects of al-Gahiz's engagement with 
Christianity: "Tradition-Reports and How They Can Be Authenticated" (Kitab 
al-ahbar wa-kayfa tasihh) and "The Refutation of the Christians" (al-Radd 'aid 
l-Nasdrd), both written before the year 232 H./846-47/ 216 ) The former deals with 
questions of discerning what is and is not historical - clearly a major problem in the 
Muslims' controversy with the Christians. The latter is a socio-political tract, alerting 
Muslims to the danger that Christians would pose to their community unless dividing 
lines were carefully drawn, and Christians kept in their proper place. Each contains a 
passage of importance to the present study: 

1. In one passage from "Tradition-Reports and How They Can Be 
Authenticated" (Kitab al-ahbdr wa kayfa tasihh), al-Gahiz examines the great 
cultural achievements of the four major pre-Islamic civilizations (the Arabs, 
Indians, Byzantines, and Persians) in order to contrast the greatness of these 
achievements with the irrationality of their religious beliefs. In this context 
al-Gahiz presents Christian (Byzantine) belief in the Incarnation and death of 
the Creator and Lord.< 217 > 

2. A rather similar passage is found at the very end of that part of "The 
Refutation of the Christians" (al-Radd 'aid l-Nasdrd) which has been 
preserved. According to it, the human career of Jesus and his crucifixion 
and death (according to the Christians) make nonsense of the claim that he is 

215. See PELLAT, "Christologie" (1970), 220-21. This article is a good guide to the 
references to Christ scattered throughout al-Gahiz's writings. 

216. This is the opinion of PELLAT ("Inventaire" (1984), 129, 151), who thinks that the Kitab 
al-radd 'aid l-Nasara wa-l-Yuhud cited in the Kitab al-hayawan (written in 232 H.) is 
the same as the work under consideration here, not a separate work. Cf. Brockelmann 
in GAL I, 242 (#13), 244 (#6) and 245 (#24)), who believes that al-Gahiz wrote separate 
refutations of the Christians, of the Jews, and of the Christians and the Jews. 

217. PELLAT, "Croyances" (1967), 99-100 [FT 861 


God/ 218 ) 

2. al-Qasim b. Ibrahim (d. 860): "The Book of the Refutation of the Christians" 

(Kitdb al-radd 'aid l-Nasara) 

Selected Literature: 

GAL I, 185-86; S.I, 314-15. GAS I, 561-63. ISCH, "Bibliographic" 11.11. CHARFI, Radd 
(1986), 135-36 (#5). 


See GAS I, 562 (#22). 

Editions, translation 

DI MATTEO, "Confutazione" (1921-22) [ed. and IT]. Rosalind G WYNNE is preparing an 
ET and study. 

Additional studies 

FRITSCH, Islam (1930), 12-13. MADELUNG, Al-Qasim (1965). ANAWATI, Polemique 
(1969), 395-96. 

The imam Targuman al-Din Abu Muhammad al-Qasim b. Ibrahim al-Hasani 
al-'Alawi al-Rassi (785-860) was a founder of the Zaydite community of South Arabia. 
His "Book of the Refutation of the Christians," written in elegant sag' (rhymed prose), 
is a sustained attack on the notion that God could have a son. All the same, it is 
notable for its objectivity in reporting Christian doctrine, both that upon which 
Melkites, Jacobites and Nestorians agree and that about which they differ. 

We take note of the following^ 219 ) 

1. In Part I (in refutation of the notion that God could have a son, 304-14 
[332-45]) we find a passage emphasizing Christ's similarity to all human 
beings. His eating and drinking, sadness and worry, and - according to the 
Christians -- passion and death, simply and obviously contradict Christian 
claims about his divinity. (307 [335]) 

2. Part II (314-18 [345-49]) is al-Qasim's exposition of Christian doctrine. 
After a brief summary of the Christian belief in the Incarnation (including 
Christ's passion and death, 316/7-9 [346]), he proceeds to an insightful 

218. 'ABD AL-SALAM, al-Gahiz (1979), III, 350-51 or SARQAWl, Muhtar (1984), 125 [FT 
ALLOUCHE, 'Traite" (1939), 1531 

219. Page/line references are to Di Matteo's edition, followed, in square brackets, by the 
corresponding reference to his Italian translation. 


description of the differences between the three major Christian communions. 
Then in a lengthy and important passage (317/8-318/8 [347-48]) he describes 
that about which the three Christological confessions are agreed, namely, the 
general outlines of the narrative of redemption : Adam's fall, Satan's 
ascendancy over humanity, the Incarnation of the divine Son and his 
suffering and death in order to redeem humanity from Satan's hand. 

3. 'Ali b. Rabban al-Tabari (ca. 785/90 - ca. 860) 
Selected Literature: 

GAL S.I, 414-15. GAS HI, 236-40. ISCH, "Bibliographie" 11.10. CHARFI, Radd (1986), 
128-35 (#4). 


al-Radd 'aid l-Nasdrd is known in a single incomplete manuscript, Istanbul, Sehit Ali 
1628. Some citations are preserved in the refutation of al-Safi b. al-'Assal, 
al-Sahaih fi radd al-nasa'ih. For this, see GCAL II, 390 (I have consulted Vat. ar. 
33 (1305) and 38 (1361)). 

al-Din wa l-dawlah fl itbat nubuwwat al-nabi Muhammad is likewise known from a 
single manuscript: Manchester, John Rylands Library ar. 69 (616 H.). 

Editions, translations: 

al-Radd ■aid l-Nasdrd: KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" (1959) [ed.]. GAUDEUL, "Radd" 
(1983) [FT]. New edition of the introduction in SAMIR, "Reponse" (1983), 299-302. 

Edition of al-Safi's refutation: MURQUS GIRGIS, Sahd'ih (1927-28). Samir Khalil 
Samir has prepared a new edition, the beginning of which is published in SAMIR, 
"Reponse" (1983), 303-28. 

al-Din wa l-dawlah: MINGANA, Religion (1923) [ed.]. Idem, Defence (1922) [ET]. 
'ADIL NUWAYHID, Din (1979) [convenient copy of Mingana's ed.]. 

Additional studies 

PEETERS, "Religion" (1924). SIDDIQI, Firdaus (1928). FRITSCH, Islam (1930), 6-12. 
MEYERHOF, '"AH at-Tabari" (1931). BOUYGES, "Tabariy" (1935). Idem, "Informations" 
(1949-50). ANAWATI, "Polemique" (1969), 392-95. SAMIR, "Reponse" (1983). THOMAS, 
"Notes" (1986). SAMIR, Mingana (1990) 26-28. 

The most extensive preserved body of writing by a Muslim controversialist of 
the ninth century is that of the convert from Nestorian Christianity, 'All b. Sahl 
(b. Rabban) al-Tabari. A former secretary and physician to Mazyar b. Qarin, emir of 
Tabaristan (defeated by the caliph al-Mu'tasim in 838), and the author of a medical 
compendium, the Firdaws al-hikmah (completed in 850), 'All converted to Islam under 


the caliph al-Mutawakkil (847-861)' 220 ' at the age of 70. Probably quite soon thereafter 
he wrote "The Refutation of the Christians" (al-Radd 'aid l-Nasdrd) as an 
apologia for his conversion.' 221 ' Somewhat later al-Mutawakkil commissioned 'The 
Book of Religion and Empire in Confirmation of the Prophethood of the Prophet 
Muhammad" (Kitab al-din wa-dawlah), an extensive Islamic response to the "true 
religion" genre of Christian apologetic. 'All al-Tabari's career as a Muslim apologist 
must therefore be centered on 855 A.D., plus or minus a few years.* 222 ' 

The doubts of the great Jesuit orientalists Peeters and Bouyges about the 
authenticity of Mingana's edition of "The Book of Religion and Empire"* 223 ' have 
greatly contributed to the work's neglect by scholars. However, in the light of David 
Thomas's discovery of a citation of al-Din in a work of the tenth century* 224 ' and of 
Samir's enlightening study of Mingana's career and the controversies he aroused,' 225 ' 
such doubts must now be laid to rest. In fact, the two works of 'AIT al-Tabari that we 
possess together form a polemical/apologetic whole:' 226 ' a refutation of Christian 

220. The sources are not united as to which caliph ruled at the time of 'All's conversion. In the 
closing sentences of al-Din wa l-dawlah, however, 'All praises al-Mutawakkil for that to which "he 
drew me and others from among the ahl al-dimmah" (<_Ji oiJl J^' ^ ^j^^i- 'ADIL 
NUWAYHID, Din (1979), 210). Is not 'All here giving al-Mutawakkil credit for his conversion? 

221. 'Ali gives one of his motivations for writing as preventing Christians and others from saying that 
he converted merely "in order to buy temporal things at the price of religion, or happiness at the 
price of deception" (jjyu *\ j3t m } '\ JjX, LJallJtf'] jS), SAMIR, "Reponse" (1983), 300 (#9). 

222. There is a date given in the text of al-Din: 867 years since Christ ('ADIL NUWAYHID, 
Din (1979), 183). Unfortunately, it is not at all clear how 'Ali reckoned this date. MINGANA 
{Defence (1922), 138, note 1) converted it to 855, but his calculations are not very convincing. In 
the Nestorian Kitab al-magdal, however, we find a report that Christ was born on December 25, 
304 an. Graec. (see, for example, Vatican ar. 109, f. 59 r ). Might 'All's date correspond to 
304 + 867 = 1171 an. Graec, or 859-60 A.D.? 

223. Peeters provisionally classed Mingana's edition of al-Din as a literary forgery, while Bouyges 
opined that al-Din was the work of a twentieth-century "Pseudo-Tabari." See SAMIR, Mingana 
(1990), 21. 

224. THOMAS, "Notes" (1986). 

225. SAMIR, Mingana (1990). It appears that some youthful slips in Mingana's scholarly integrity led 
Peeters, Bouyges, and others automatically to doubt the reliability of his publications in 
(academically virtuous) maturity. 

226. 'Ali himself claims as much, when in al-Din he exhorts his readers to read this book along with 
his earlier work, al-Radd 'ala l-Nasara ('ADIL NUWAYHID, Din (1979), 159). Furthermore, there 
is another reference in al-Din to al-Radd: 'All refers to the section in which had demonstrated 
"that the name 'God' and the name 'Lord' are also predicated of human beings" (^-»lj «*Su ^-*\ j* 
t-Jb1 ^-LJl ^Jl* jLnil^ (ii-jjJU, ibid., 154). This corresponds perfectly to a passage in al-Radd; see 
KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" (1959), 146-47. 


claims about Christ (al-Radd) is followed by a commendation of Islamic claims about 
Muhammad (al-Din). 

As is to be expected, 'All's refutation of Christianity is the most fruitful source 
of material concerning the passion and death of Christ, but al-Din also contains 
sections of interest to the present work. 

L 'The Refutation of the Christians" {al-Radd 'aid l-Nasard) 

Material of interest to the present inquiry is scattered throughout the 
work. The following sections, for example, are to be sifted for useful 
material^ 227 ' 

(a) Part 2, "Seven silencing questions" (121/4-128/15). 

These are dilemma questions designed to lead the reader to the conclusion 
that Christ cannot be God. For example, the "third silencing question" is 
whether the eternal Creator can become passible, to the point of being 
subject to death (123/3-11). Throughout the section 'All freely uses the biblical 
narrative of Christ's passion, death and resurrection in order to win debating 
points (eg., 124/11-16, 125/6-10, 126/9-11, 127/6-8). 

(b) Part 3, 'Twelve points of accord" (128/15-136/8). 

We find very similar material scattered throughout this section. The "twelfth 
point of accord" is that God does not decay and die (129/1-2, and see also 
135/5-6). The point that there can be no identity between God and Christ is 
illustrated with lists of Christ's human activities, including his passion and 
death (131/18-132/1, 133/19-134/11). Again, we find proof texts taken from the 
biblical passion narrative (130/21, 131/15-16). Finally, there is an interesting 
critique of the Christian narrative of redemption, according to which, in 'All's 
view, Christ fails, God is derided, and Satan is praised (132/8-12, 133/6-19). 

(c) Part 4, "Critique of the Creed, and contradictions in the gospels" 

One passage continues 'Alfs critique of the Christian narrative of redemption, 
according to which Satan overcame Christ (139/1, 5-10). The Christian 
proclamation "God raised Christ from the dead" is cited to prove the 
distinction between God and Christ (136/18-19, 138/18-20; also later at 143/10-11). 

(d) Part 7, "Why is Christ called God?" (143/23-148). 

Here again, New Testament passages (Christ's appearance on the Emmaus 
road, Peter's Pentecost sermon) are cited in support of 'Alfs point: Christ is 
a man, not God (145/15-146/5). 

227. I follow the outline of the text begun by SAMIR, "Reponse" (1983), 294. Page/line 
references are to KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" (1959). 


In the latter part of al-Radd, known only from the response of al-Safi b. 
al-'Assal, we find the materials listed below/ 228 ) 

(e) Chapter 10, "On the three confessions" (80-91), includes the following 
citations: "Christ did not cut a strand of the ropes of Satan . . . but 
bequeathed to [his followers] the mockery of all people" (87/4, 7-8). "Don't 
you see that religious people only describe God in terms of victory and 
strength?" (90/6). 

(f) Chapter 11, "On the abolition of sin" (92-97), includes the following 
citations: "Why is it that [Christ] did not abolish sin and death, as you 
claim?" (92/1) "How is it that Satan fled the prophets and left them alone, 
but gained power over their Lord?" (94/15-16). 

(g) Chapter 12, "On the fact that Christ, when asked about his kingship, 
neither confirmed it nor denied it" (97-111) includes: "How does the one 
whom death killed overcome death?" (103/10-11) "In his letters [Paul] cursed 
Christ openly" [cf. Galatians 3:13] (106/20). 

(h) Chapter 13, "An answer to the alleged contradiction among the four 
gospels" (112-120), includes responses to 'All's perceived contradictions, 
including the question of precisely when Christ rose from the dead (114/2-4), 
the claim that Christ rose "after three days" (114/20), and the actions of the 
thieves crucified with Christ (115/20-116/6). The chapter concludes with a 
response to the conventional debate question: Did Christ will his death (in 
which case the Jews are to be commended) or not (in which case Christ is 
not worthy of praise)? (119/12-120). 

(i) Chapter 14, "On magnifying the cross" (121-122) is the response to 
'All's question why Christians make, wear, and use crosses, or make the sign 
of the cross. 

2. "The Book of Religion and Empire" (Kitab al-dln wa-l-dawlah) 

A few passages of help to the present study are listed below/ 229 ) 

(a) Chapter 7, "That the victory of the Prophet is one of the signs of his 
prophethood" (108-113 [57-60]) is a significant section in the light of 'All's 
emphasis on Christ's failure. 

(b) Chapter 8, "That those who called to the religion [of Muhammad] 
and those who witnessed to its truth were the best and most righteous of 
people" (114-129 [61-76]), contains a brief description of the differences 
between Christian and Islamic descriptions of Christ, also with regard to his 

228. The chapters are those of al-Safi. Page/line references are to MURQUS GIRGIS, 
Sahaih (1927-28). 

229. Page references are to the convenient edition of ADIL NUWAYHID (Din (1979), 
followed, in square brackets, by the corresponding pages in the ET of MINGANA, 

Defence (1922). 


(alleged) death (128 [75]). 

(c) In the section containing "Responses to objections" (189-204 [147-61]) 
we find one passage in which 'All offers proof-texts from the biblical story 
of the passion of Christ (to show that Christ did not always offer 
evidentiary miracles, (194 [150-51]), and another on the failure of Christ's 
pacifism (199-200 [156-57]). Also notable is "the response to the one who 
claims that no [prophet] mentioned the resurrection except Christ" (203-4 
[161]), which may be a distorted reflection of a Christian argument for the 
necessity of Christ's death. 

(d) In the "Final question and exhortation" with which the work 
concludes (207-10 [165-69]) 'All offers a brief description of Christian belief 
which includes the theme of Christ's unsuccessful struggle with Satan (208 

4. "The Letter of 'Umar" 
Selected Literature: 

ISCH, "Bibliographie" 11.28. CHARFI, Radd (1986), 160-62 (#17). 

The second half of the original Arabic text of this letter is preserved in a 
parchment manuscript of the ninth or early tenth century, found in the collection of 
Damascene documents of the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul. See 
SOURDEL, "Pamphlet" (1966), 1-3. The first half of the text is preserved in Romance 
translation in a manuscript of Madrid, B.N.M. Aljamiado No. 4944 (16th a). 

Editions, translations 

SOURDEL, "Pamphlet" (1966) [ed. of Arabic fragment and FT]. CARDAILLAC, 
"Polemique" (1972), II, 194-267 [ed. of Romance version, also incomplete]. GAUDEUL, 
"Letter" (1984) [ET of reconstructed letter]. 

As was mentioned earlier/ 230 ) the tradition of an exchange of letters between 
the the Umayyad caliph 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz and the Byzantine emperor Leo HI 
provided both Muslims and Christians with a framework for the drafting of 
polemical/apologetic essays. The "Letter of 'Umar" which we have in our possession 
is one such essay, written in Arabic sometime in the ninth century. It drew a 

230. Above, pp. 42-44. 


response, a "Letter of Leo" which has been preserved in Armenian/ 231 ' 

We are, naturally enough, entirely ignorant as to the identity of the actual 
author of the work. As for the date of its writing, the pertinent evidence is the 

(i) The Arabic manuscript. Its archaic kufi-nashi script and its qaf written with an 
underdot suggest a ninth- rather than a tenth-century date/ 232 ) 

(ii) Content. A striking feature of the "Letter of 'Umar" is the similarity of many of 
its ideas and themes to those of the work of 'All al-Tabari, described above/ 233 ) There 
is, however, a notable difference. Where 'All al-Tabari very freely quotes from the 
Christian gospels - even from the narrative of Christ's passion and death! - in order 
to make specific points, the "Letter of 'Umar" opens with a chapter on the 
falsification of the Christian scriptures. Even when quoting from the Sermon on the 
Mount, the "Letter of 'Umar" frequently records its suspicion of the Christian 
scriptures with the caveat: za'amtum, "you have claimed.''^ 234 ) 

(iii) isndd. The Romance translation preserves an isndd which gives the latest 
transmitter as Muhammad b. 'Awf b. 'Abd al-'Aziz (d. 885). 

Sourdel did not know the Romance translation, but on the basis of the 
evidence available to her suggested that the work should be dated to the time of 
al-Mutawakkil (847-861) or a little later/ 235 ) Gaudeul, weighing the evidence of the 
isndd, would look for a date of writing shortly after 885/ 236 ) This argument, however, 
assumes that the isndd preserved in the Romance translation is necessarily as old as 
the text of the Letter itself. 

It is probably safe to say that the "Letter of 'Umar" was not composed any 
earlier than al-Mutawakkil's reign, when 'All al-Tabari was producing his 
polemical/apologetic pair of books. The author very possibly knew these books, but 
if so, in his own work he avoided what he would have seen as 'All al-Tabari's 
dangerous habit of citing from narratives the truth of which a Muslim would have to 
dispute. The archaic handwriting of the Arabic parchment manuscript makes it 
unlikely that the work was written more than a few decades after the time of 
al-Mutawakkil. With caution, then, a date of around 860 or 870 may be proposed for 
the "Letter of 'Umar." 

Passages of interest for the present study are listed below/ 237 ) 

231. See above, p. 43. 

232. See the description in SOURDEL, "Pamphlet" (1966), 2-3. 

233. This was recognized by Sourdel, who, however, was only familiar with al-Dln wa l-dawlah. See 
ibid., 10. 

234. Ibid., 29-31. 

235. Ibid., 11. Fiey too would date the work under al-Mutawakkil; FIEY, Chretiens syriaques (1980), 97. 

236. "Letter" (1984), 126. 

237. References are made to the numbered paragraphs in GAUDEUL, "Letter" (1984), followed, in 
parentheses, by page/line references to SOURDEL, "Pamphlet" (1966). 


1. #17: Christian practices ~ including use of cross and image -- are 

2. #44-45 (27/1-2): Jesus' eating, drinking, sleeping, etc. prove that he was 
not God. 

3. #46 (27/3-5): Citation of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 against the claim that 
Jesus was crucified. 

4. #56-60 (28/13-29/5): The Christian narrative of redemption grants too 
much power to Iblis/Satan, both over the souls of the faithful Old Testament 
prophets (#56-58) and in the struggle with Jesus (#59-60). 

5. #63-64 (29/12-17): Against the cult of the cross and of the images. 

6. #79 (32/8-11): Muhammad did not follow "Yas" and "Nasthur" in their 
Christian practices, including the veneration of the cross. 

7. #84 (33/3-5): Muhammad forbade idolatry, including the worship of cross 
or image. 

8. #87-88 (33/11-17): Military success is a criterion of the true religion. 

C. Two Sophisticated Mu'tazilite Refutations 

The Mu'tazilites were known as ahl al-'adl wa-l-taxvhid (roughly, "the partisans 
of [God's] justice and unicity"). As they struggled to commend and defend their 
construal of the Qur'an's witness to the unicity of God, it is inevitable that they 
should have taken notice of specifically Christian teachings. Doctrines such as God's 
Trinity and Incarnation served not only as a foil for the Mu'tazilites' own doctrine of 
God, but also as a warning to the rest of the Muslim community: to depart from the 
strictest construal of God's tawhid is to risk falling into errors like those of the 
Christians!* 238 ) Therefore the Mu'tazilite mutakallim who refuted Christian beliefs not 
only reinforced the boundaries about the Muslim community as a whole, warding off 
threats from the outside, but also struck a blow against those groups within the 
Islamic community deemed to be prone to Christian-like errors. 

We have already encountered one of the great Mu'tazilites in the person of 
al-Gahiz. We noted, however, that his "Refutation of the Christians" is to a great 
extent a work of social analysis. In the present section we look to works containing a 
more fundamental critique of Christian doctrine. 

238. Muslim polemicists regularly accused their opponents of having fallen into Christian doctrine. For 
example, al-Subki reports that the Mu'tazilites said of the (Muslim) "asserters of the attributes": 
"The Christians have disbelieved with three. You have disbelieved with seven!" SUBK.1, Tabaqat 
(1906-7), II, 51-52. 


L Abu 'Isa Muhammad b. Harun al-Warraq (d. 861-62):* 23 *) 

"The Book of the Refutation of the Three Sects of Christians" 

{Kitab al-radd 'aid l-firaq al-taldt min al-Nasdrd) 

Selected Literature: 

GAL S.I, 341-42. GAS I, 620. GCAL II, 239-41. ISCH, "Bibliographic" 11.12. CHARFI, 
Radd (1986), 141-46 (#9). 


The text is only preserved through citations in the response of Yahya b. 'Adi. See 
GCAL H 240-41; PLATT1, Incarnation (1987), vii-xiv. 

Editions, translations 

ABEL, "Refutation" (1949) [ed. and FT of the preserved fragments of Part II of al-Radd, 
the refutation of the Incarnation, from Paris ar. 167 (base), Paris ar. 168, Vatican ar. 113, 
Vatican ar. 114]. PLATTI, Incarnation (1987) [new ed. and FT, from the same MSS + 
Cairo, Patr. Copt. Theol. 173]. PLATTI, "Doctrine" (1991) [ed. and FT of the first 
paragraphs of Part I of the Radd, the refutation of the Trinity, from Paris ar. 167 (base) 
and Vatican ar. 114]. 

Additional studies 

PLATTI, "Objections" (1987-88). 

Despite the fact that Abu 'Isa al-Warraq (and his disciple Ibn al-Rawandi") are 
best known today for the charge of zandaqah (heresy) -- and in particular of 
dualism/Manichaeism - that was laid against them/ 240 ) in his "Refutation of the Three 
Sects of Christians" we find him battling for the Islamic concept of tawhld against 
Christian assertions of the Trinity and Incarnation of God. His poor reputation 
among Muslims seems to have prevented his work from becoming widely diffused 
and known, at least under his name and in the form in which he wrote it. That we 
possess excerpts from the work is due to the care taken by the Christian philosopher 
and theologian Yahya b. 'Adi in copying out long sections, to which he devoted 
careful responses. 


The date of al-Warraq 's death is variably given as 247 H./861-62 or 297 H./909-10. Platti believes 
the former date to be correct (PLATTI, Incarnation (1987), [translation volume] ix). 
See PLATTI, Incarnation (1987), [translation volume] ix-x. 


1. 'Abd Allah's introductory summary of the faith of Christians' 241 ) includes a 
lengthy passage on the beliefs of the Nestorians, Melkites, and Jacobites with 
respect to the death of Christ/ 242 ) 

2. The (alleged) crucifixion, death and burial of Christ play a major role in 
Part II of al-Radd, Abu isa's vigorous polemic against the alleged union of 
God and man in Christ. Among the most important paragraphs for present 
purposes are the following/ 243 ) 

(a) (#21-23) On the christological definitions of the Nestorians, Melkites, and 
Jacobites, which do not succeed in preventing birth, crucifixion, death and 
burial from being predicated of divinity. 

(b) (#26-36) On Christ's death and resurrection 

(i) (#26-28, to all three confessions) What happens to the Union [of 
divinity and humanity in Christ] in the state of crucifixion, death, and burial? 
Is it dissolved, or does it remain? 

(ii) (#29-31, to the Nestorians) How is Christ to be described in this 
state? As God, other than God, or God united with a corpse? 

(iii) (#32-35, to all three confessions) Who raised Christ? Himself, or 
someone else? 

(iv) (#36, to Melkites and Jacobites) Is Christ presently alive, in which 
case, who raised him? Or dead, in which case, does he deserve worship? 

(c) (#63-69) Questions to Melkites 

(i) (#63-67) What underwent crucifixion, death, and suffering: the body 
alone, the divinity alone, or both together? In the last case, is the divinity 
alive or dead? If dead, who killed him? 

(ii) (#68) On the confession "God suffered, according to his economy 
(tadbir)." Did God suffer when he so "acquired" this suffering? What is the 
reality {haqlqah) of "was crucified" and "died"? Who was the subject of this 
tadbir? Christ's death and the guilt of the Jews. 

(iii) (#69) If Christ is the divine Word united with "universal humanity" 
(al-insan al-kulll), neither of which can be grasped, how could he be 
crucified, killed and buried?' 244 ) 

241. PLATTI, "Doctrine" (1991). 

242. Ibid, 26-27 (#15) [FT 13-14]. 

243. References are to the paragraph numbers of Platti's edition and translation (PLATTI, Incarnation 

244. On this same issue, see also #38. 


2. al-Nasi' al-Akbar (d. 905-6): "The Middle Book" (Kitab al-awsat) 
Selected Literature: 

GAL S.I, 188. GCAL II, 390-93. ISCH, "Bibliographie" 11.16. CHARFI, Radd (1986), 
140-41 (#8). 


The text is known from excerpts in the response of al-Safi b. al-'Assal, conserved in a 
single manuscript: Cairo, Coptic Patriarchate 370 (1752 A.D.). 


VAN ESS, Haresiographie (1971) [ed. and studyl. 

The Kitab al-awsat of al-Nasi' al-Akbar Abu l-'Abbas 'Abd Allah b. 
Muhammad b. 'Abd Allah al-Anbari is a concise listing of Jewish, Christian, and 
Muslim sects, with a brief response. In the section on Christianity, he lists no fewer 
than 22 Christian sects. For his refutation, however, he concentrates on the 
Trinitarian groups, in particular on the three main confessions. 

Of importance to us here is a passage from his refutation of the Christians in 
which he discusses the death of Christ.* 245 ) 

1. (#45) The refutation of those who say, "The Creator died and was 
crucified and buried." 

2. (#46) The refutation of those qualify the statement with the addition: 
"from the standpoint of his humanity." 

3. (#47) The refutation of those who speak of two natures and two 
hypostases, and say, "He died from the standpoint of his humanity, but did 
not die from the standpoint of his divinity." 

245. References are made to the paragraphs in the edition of VAN ESS, Haresiographie 


D. Besting the Byzantines: The Story of Wasil 
Selected Literature: 

STEINSCHNEIDER, Literatur (1877), 44. 

The single known manuscript of the story is Leiden, or. 951, ff. 22 v -25 r . 

Edition, translation 
GRIFFITH, "Bashir" (1990) [ed., ET and study]. 

Leiden or. 951 (2) tells the story of one Wasil, a sayh from Damascus who was 
among a group of thirty Muslims "thrown up by the sea" - probably the narrator has 
the failed attack of 717-18 on Constantinople in mind -- and captured by the 
Byzantines. While in captivity, presumably in Constantinople, he is engaged in 
religious debate first by the patrician Basir, then by a bishop, and finally by the 
emperor himself and "the head of the Christians," i.e. the patriarch. Having confuted 
all of the Christians in debate, Wasil is returned to his homeland, but not before he 
convinces the emperor that the Christians are guilty of idolatry because they worship 
what they make with their own hands. And thus it is a Muslim mutakallim who is 
responsible for the iconoclastic policy of the emperor - now identifiable as Leo III 
(717-41) - and his successors/ 246 ) 

The story is a good example of a particular sub-genre of Islamic 
controversy-anecdote, in which a Muslim prisoner or emissary in Byzantium bests 
Christians, including the emperor and the patriarch, in debate. In the tenth-century 
collection of anecdotes of al-Tanuhl, al-Farag ba'd al-siddah ("Relief after adversity"), 
the hero of such a debate is the tabi' ("Successor") Qubbat b. Razin/ 247 ' while in the 
'Uyun al-munazardt ("The choicest polemics") of al-Sakuni (d. 1317) the hero is the 
famous mutakallim al-Baqillanl (d. 1013)/ 248 ) The parallel with anecdotes featuring the 
mutakallim al-Baqillani suggests that the narrator of our story names his hero for the 
"founder" of the Mu'tazilite school of kaldm, Wasil b. 'Ata' (699-748), who was alive - 
if hardly a sayhl -- when Leo began his iconoclastic program/ 249 ) 

246. For a discussion of these points in the light of other ancient accounts of the origins of Byzantine 
iconoclasm, see GRIFFITH, Bashir (1990). 

247. See CANARD, "Aventures" (1955-56), esp. pp. 61-62. 

248. GHRAB, 'Uyun (1976), 246-49. 

In a polemical exchange common to the three anecdotes mentioned here, the Muslim asks 
about the patriarch's family. On being informed that the patriarch is too exalted to be involved 
with such things as women's impurity and/or paternity, the Muslim observes that it is strange that 
the Christian God is not thus exalted! GRIFFITH, "Bashir'' (1990), 322; CANARD, "Aventures" 
(1955-56), 62; GHRAB, Vyun (1976), 248. 

249. This is not the only case of Wasil b. 'Ata' figuring as hero in anecdotal literature. See the story 
about his dealing with a group of Kharijites in IBN QUTAYBAH, 'Uyun, I, 196. 


How is such a story to be dated? The following points should be noted: 
(a) A terminus ante quern for the dating of the text is provided by the events of 
the story themselves, i.e. the early eighth century. 

(b) A terminus ad quern is perhaps provided by the isnad at the head of the 
account:' 250 ) the latest transmitter to be mentioned is Abu 1-Husayn 'All b. Muhammad 
'Abd Allah b. Bisr, a scholar of Baghdad who died in 1024.( 251 ' The story of Wasil 
therefore must have achieved its present written form by the mid-eleventh century. 

(c) As Griffith has pointed out, the apologetic content of Wasil's debates fits in 
well with other materials that we possess from the ninth century J 252 ) 

(d) We should note, however, that the story of Wasil recounts the victory in 
religious argument of a survivor of a military failure. This suggests that the story 
may have had the aim of assuring Muslims of the intellectual superiority of their faith 
to that of the Byzantine Christians despite military reversals being suffered at their 
hands. If this is the case, the mid-tenth century might be the most natural time to 
look for the redaction and diffusion of the story.' 253 ) 

Whether we date this text to the ninth or to the tenth century, many of its 
component traditions were in circulation at an early stage of the Arabic 
Christian-Muslim controversy, being repeated and refuted in a variety of controversial 
texts and apologetic compendia. For this reason I include the story in this list of 
witnesses to the discussions of the eighth and ninth centuries, even if its constitutive 
traditions may only have been ordered to a particular narrative framework, "The 
Story of Wasil," at a somewhat later date. 

The passages of particular interest for the present study are as follows.' 254 ' 

1. Wasil inquires about Christian worship of the cross, and follows this up 
with the familiar dilemma question: was Jesus crucified according to his 
own will, or not? (318/7-11) 

2. Wasil warns that if he is killed, the caliph will set his hand to "the killing 
of priests and bishops, the destruction of churches, the breaking of crosses, 
and the prohibition of [sounding] the naqus" (324/17-22) 

3. Wasil reproaches the Christians for worshipping the works of their own 
hands. (324/23-325/3) 

250. See GRIFFITH, "Bashir" (1990), 314. 

251. GAS I, 227 (#314). 

252. GRIFFITH, "Bashir" (1990), 303-9. 

253. The assertion of the religious superiority of Islam despite a string of military setbacks 
is a theme of the poetic apology of 'Abd al-Malik b. Muhammad al-Sasi written in 
966-67. See GRUNEBAUM, "Polemik" (1937). 

254. Page/line references are made to the Arabic text — with facing English translation — 
in GRIFFITH, "Bashir" (1990). 

Chapter Two 

Introduction: Islam's Antipathy to the Cross 

L The beginning and the end: two hadith reports 

I was walking with 'A'isah and a group of women between al-Safa and al-Marwah, and 
I saw a woman who was wearing a hamlsah^ with crosses on [its ornamental borders]. 
'A'isah said to her: "Take that off your garment! When the Apostle of God saw it on 
a garment he cut it off."( 2 ) 

The Hour will not come before the Son of Mary comes down among you as a 
equitable judge, and he will break the cross and kill the swine and do away with the 
gizyah, and wealth will abound until no one will accept it/ 3 ) 

According to the hadith literature, antipathy to the symbol of the cross 
brackets Islamic history. At that history's beginning stands the figure of Muhammad 
himself, who, according to a family of hadith reports such as the first one cited 
above, would not countenance crosses even as a decorative pattern on fabric/ 4 ) At its 
end, according to a much-repeated and highly-regarded set of hadith reports, is the 
return to earth of Jesus ('Isa b. Maryam) to "break the crosses and kill the swine" as 
he ushers in a golden age before the dawning of the terrible Hour of judgement/ 5 ) 
The hostility to the cross manifest in such hadith reports clearly reflects the 
sensibilities of influential Muslims of the first two Islamic centuries, who were able to 
project their discomfort with and disapproval of the symbol (and the community) of 

L The «>- was a black square wool garment with two ornamental borders. 

2. IBN HANBAL, Musnad (1895-96), VI, 225. 

3. BUHARI, Sahlh (1862-1908), II, 107 (mazdllm 31). 

4. Other reports in which 'A'isah relates Muhammad's aversion to crosses are found at IBN HANBAL, 
Musnad (1895-96), VI, 140 and 216. Another set of reports state that Muhammad would not allow 
anything with a cross-pattern in his house: BUHARI, Sahlh (1862-1908), IV, 104 (libas 90); ABU 
DA'UD, Sunan (1952), II, 391 (libas 44); IBN HANBAL, Musnad (1895-96), VI, 52, 237, 252. An 
issue for the early legal scholars was whether wearing a garment with a cross-pattern on it would 
invalidate prayer: BUHARI, Sahlh (1862-1908), I, 106-7 (al-salat 15). 

5. In addition to the report given above: BUHARI, Sahlh (1862-1908), II, 40 (buyu' 102), 370 (anblya 
49); MUSLIM, Sahlh (1929-31), I, 135 (Iman 242); TIRMIDI, Sunan (1965-68), VII, 10-11 (fltan 54); 
ABU DA'UD, Sunan (1952), II, 430-32 (malahlm 14); IBN MAGAH, Sunan (1952-53), II, 1363 (fit an 
33); IBN HANBAL, Musnad (1895-96), II, 240, 272, 290, 394, 406, 411, 437, 482-83, 493-94, 538; 
TABARI, Tafslr (1955-), VI, 459 (#7145). 



the cross back, onto the story of the Prophet, and their hopes for vindication over 
against that symbol (and community) onto their recitals of history's end. 

It is not only in the hadith literature that we find evidence for Islamic 
antipathy to the symbol of the cross. We turn now to a variety of other sources, 
including Islamic legal and historical literature and Christian chronicles and 
hagiography, to illustrate this antipathy during the first Islamic centuries. 

2. In between: the historical record 

The first decade after the death of Muhammad was a period of extraordinary 
military success for the nascent Islamic state. Town after town in Palestine, Syria, and 
Mesopotamia capitulated to the Muslims, their Christian and Jewish inhabitants 
agreeing to the payment of the gizyah in return for a number of guarantees which 
were spelled out in individual treaties. The contents of some of these treaties are 
preserved by Muslim writers such as the great legal scholar Abu Yusuf (d. 798) in his 
Kitab al-harag^ and a number of historians, notably al-Baladurl (d. not later than 
892) in his Kitab futuh al-buldanP^ A constant theme of these treaties is the degree 
to which the victorious Muslims would tolerate the Christian cult. Particular issues 
include whether Christians would be allowed to keep their crosses and whether and 
how often they might carry them in public procession outside the walls of their 
churches. In general, the peace treaties display a fair degree of tolerance: those of 
'Umar b. al-Hattab with Jerusalem and Ludd stipulate that Christians may keep their 
crosses/ 8 ) while those of Halid b. al-WalTd with al-Hirah and 'Anat pose no obstacle to 
processions with the cross on feast days/ 9 ) Abu Yusuf reports that Abu 'Ubaydah 
b. al-Garrah, the conqueror of northern Syria, initially prohibited processions with 
crosses, but after representations by Christians (and with the approval of the caliph 
'Umar) agreed to allow a procession with crosses (but not banners) "on the day of 
their principle feast," on the condition that it take place outside the town, away from 
Muslim neighborhoods/ 10 ^ Only one of the early treaties, that of Tyad b. Gunm with 
al-Raqqah, contains an outright prohibition of processions and the display of the 
cross/ 11 ) 

Abu Yusuf reported the texts of the early peace treaties in his Kitab al-harag, 
written at the request of Harun al-RasId (caliph 786-820), in order to justify an Islamic 
tolerance towards the Christian and Jewish cults that some Muslims clearly saw as 

6. FT FAGNON, Kharadj (1921). 

7. Ed. DE GOEJE, Liber (1866). For a capable review of the treaties with extensive references to the 
primary sources, see FATTAL, Statut (1958), 34-60. 

8. Ibid., 45-47. 

9. Ibid, 38-40. 

10. FAGNON, Kharadj (1921), 214-19. 

11. FATTAL, Statut (1958), 40-41, 205. 


excessive. Indeed, other works of early Islamic jurisprudence reflect a sterner 
mood. The imam al-Safi'i (767-820) included in his Kitab al-umm a "textbook" treaty 
which flatly reads, "You [Christians] shall not display the cross in any of the Muslims' 
towns."* 12 ) And in later literature one finds preserved in a number of recensions the 
notorious "Covenant of 'Umar" (suriit 'Umar). Among its many stipulations for the 
sharp demarcation and clear subordination of dimml communities within the Ddr 
al-lslam is one prohibiting the display of crosses and church books in Muslim 
streets/ 13 ) 

If the Islamic legal tradition reveals a gradual hardening of attitudes with 
respect to the public display of crosses, Christian sources provide anecdotal evidence 
for Muslim antipathy to the cross dating back to the first decades of the Islamic era. 
One of the oldest such reports in our possession is an account written in the 
mid-seventh century by a monk of Mount Sinai named Anastasius. Having described 
a vision experienced by a group of Armenian pilgrims at the top of the holy 
mountain, Anastasius went on to note that "some ignorant Saracens who saw this 
vision did not believe, and did not leave off reviling that holy place on account of 
these wonders and the venerable crosses that were therein Another example of the 
first Muslims' antipathy to the cross is provided by later Christian chroniclers, who 
reported that the "emir" '"Amru" b. Sa'd (probably 'Umayr b. Sa'd al-Ansari, governor 
of Hims in 641-44)* 15 > forbade the appearance of crosses outside of churches, including 
on the feast days when processions had been customary, and had crosses removed 
from exterior walls/ 16 ) 

While '"Amru's" prohibition was of a "local and transitory" nature, as Caetani 
pointed out many years ago,* 17 ) the Marwanids who came to the caliphal throne a 
half-century later introduced caliphate-wide policies of Arabization and Islamicization 
which inevitably had a restrictive effect on the display of Christian symbols such as 
the cross/ 18 ) 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan (caliph 685-705), whose building of the Dome 
of the Rock and reform of the coinage* 19 ) are clear manifestations of an assertive and 
self-assured Islamic ideology, is reported to have ordered that crosses be torn down 

12. See below, p. 95. 

13. For critical studies of the "Covenant of 'Umar" see TRITTON, Caliphs (1930) and FATTAL, 
Statut (1958), 60-69. 

14. NAU, 'Texte" (1902), 82 [FT NAU, "Recits" (1902), 38-391 

15. See above, p. 3, note 14. 

16. See the two reports of this prohibition in the "Chronicle" of Michael the Syrian (CHABOT, 
Michel (1899-1910), IV, 421-22 [FT II, 431-32]), one of which also appears in the anonymous 
"Chronicle to the Year 1234" (idem, 1234 (1917-1920), I, 262-63 [LT I, 205]) and derives from the 
(now lost) "Ecclesiastical History" of Dionysius, Syrian Orthodox patriarch from 818 to 845. For 
more on '"Amru's" antipathy to the cross, see below, p. 94. 

17. CAETANI, Annali (1905-26), III, 942-44, esp. 943-44, note 1. 

18. For an overview of these policies, see GRIFFITH, 'Tract" (1985), 62-65. 

19. See below, pp. 76-77, 111-12. 


(and pigs killed)/ 20 * while his brother 'Abd al-'AzIz, governor of Egypt (684-704), is 
said to have once ordered the destruction of all the crosses in the area under his 
authority/ 21 * 'Abd al-'AzIz' son 'Umar (caliph 717-20) introduced policies designed to 
encourage conversion to Islam; it is to his reign (and not that of 'Umar b. al-Hattab) 
that we are to look for the roots of the "Covenant of 'Umar."( 22 ' His successor Yazid 
b. 'Abd al-Malik (caliph 720-24) is well known for his "iconoclastic edict,"* 23 ' which 
Oleg Grabar has plausibly suggested was an anti-Christian program which "took an 
iconoclastic turn in the sources."* 24 ) As recalled by the Armenian historian Thomas 
Acruni (early 10th c.) or the Muslim al-Maqnzi (1364-1442), Yazid's measures went far 
beyond the destruction of representative art, and included the destruction of crosses/ 25 ' 
For the late Umayyad and early Abbasid periods there is no lack of anecdotal 
evidence for Muslim hostility to the cross, although it seems that occasional attempts 
to implement the stipulations of what became the "Covenant of 'Umar," including the 
ban on Christian processions with crosses, did not have lasting effect, as the following 
examples (which have specifically to do with the cross) illustrate. For the late 
Umayyad period, the "History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria" records instances of 
cross-reviling/ 26 ) but also an instance of a public procession with crosses/ 27 ' The 
Abbasid caliph Harun al-RasId may have revived some of the stipulations of the 
"Covenant of 'Umar,"* 28 ' but the historical section of the Nestorian compilation 
al-Magdal relates that his wife Umm al-Amin gave gold and silver crosses to the 
Nestorian patriarch/ 29 ' Michael the Syrian reports that while al-Mu'tasim (caliph 
833-42) put restrictions on the Christian cult, forbidding the appearance of crosses 
outside of churches, local officials were often willing, for a price, to turn a blind eye 
to the Christians' activities/ 30 ' The most consistent and thorough-going anti-Christian 
program of which we know was that pursued by al-Mutawakkil (caliph 847-861), 
under whom what came to be known as "the Covenant of 'Umar" came to its full 
development. Muslim as well as Christian chroniclers report at length on his 

20. Again according to the "Chronicle" of Michael the Syrian; CHABOT, Michel (1899-1910), IV, 447 
[FT II, 4751 

21. According to 'The History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria." See below, p. 94. 

22. FATTAL, Statut (1958), 68-69, with further references. 

23. The fullest study is VASILIEV, "Edict" (1956). 

24. O. GRABAR, "Art" (1964), 84. 

25. Thomas reports that Yazid had icons smashed, crosses torn down, and pigs massacred (see GERO, 
Iconoclasm (1973), 133), while al-Maqrizi in his al-Hitat reports that he had churches destroyed, 
crosses broken, and likenesses obliterated (see VASILIEV, "Edict" (1956), 39). 

26. EVETTS, History (1907-15), V, 101-103, 149-150. 

27. Ibid., V, 113-14, cf. 193-98. 

28. FATTAL, Statut (1958), 69. 

29. GISMONDI, De patriarchis (1899), I, 73. 

30. CHABOT, Michel (1899-1910), IV, 534 [FT III, 96-97]. The Christians of Melitene, however, were 
unsuccessful in evading the caliph's edict, to judge from a report in 'The Chronicle to the Year 
1234;" idem, 1234 (1917-20), II, 35 [FT II, 251 


campaign of enforcing the social isolation of non-Muslims^ 31 ) within the Ddr 
al-lslam with measures including distinctive dress and riding habits for Christians, 
clear marking of Christians' homes, dismissal of Christians from public office, 
destruction of churches built in the Islamic period, confiscation of Christian property 
for building mosques, a ban on the use of the naqus - and the prohibition of 
displaying crosses and holding religious processions/ 32 ) 

The evidence that we have reviewed, whether from Christian chronicles or 
from the Islamic historical, legal, or hadith literature, gives a fairly consistent picture. 
The Christian symbol of the cross was an object of aversion for many Muslims, just 
as (it was claimed) it had been for Muhammad. Its public display was a topic of legal 
discussion and frequently the target of restrictive legislation, which, however, was not 
always rigorously enforced and which appears to have regularly fallen into desuetude. 
Occasional dramatic anti-Christian outbursts involved the destruction of crosses, 
although the standard pious view was that such cross-breaking could be left for Jesus 
to accomplish at the time of his return to earth. 

3. Explanations 

The Christian chroniclers Theophanes and Michael the Syrian had no difficulty 
in explaining the Muslims' aversion to the cross: it lay in the cross' mystical power to 
frustrate the Muslims' designs. They tell the following story (which I reproduce 
according to Michael)/ 33 * 

At that time [during the caliphate of 'Umar b. al-Hattab], while the Muslims 
were rebuilding the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem/ 34 ) the building collapsed. The 
Jews said: "If you do not cast down the cross which is placed opposite the Temple on 
the Mount of Olives, the Temple cannot be built." And when they had cast down the 
cross, the building went up. For this reason they cast down many crosses, and the 
outcome of this in the kingdom of the Muslims was that they became haters of the 
cross and persecutors of the Christians because of their prostration to the cross. 

Such a story no doubt found approval among its first Christian hearers, explaining 
Muslim hostility to the cross in a way that left them in no doubt as to its supernatural 
power. This explanation, however, belongs more to the realm of apologetics than to 
that of history. 

31. It should be noted that al-Mutawakkil's measures were not solely aimed at Christians. Jews were 
similarly affected, and Shi'ites were persecuted. 

32. See, for example, TABARl, Tarlh (1960-69), IX, 171-74. 

33. From the "Chronicle" of Michael the Syrian, CHABOT, Michel (1899-1910), IV, 421 [FT II, 4311 
The corresponding story in the "Chronicle" of Theophanes is found in DE BOOR, 
Chronographia (1883-85), I, 342 (aM 6135) [ET TURTLEDOVE, Chronicle (1982), 421 

34. This is an anachronism, as the reconstructed "Temple of Solomon" can only be the Dome of the 
Rock, built under 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan. See below, pp. 111-12. 


How shall we explain the Muslims' antipathy to the symbol of the cross? In 
the most general terms, it could be suggested that since the cross was the Christian 
symbol par excellence, aversion to it may simply have been a crystallization of 
whatever sense of shock and outrage, or perhaps insecurity and inferiority, was 
experienced by the early Muslims in their encounters with established Christian 
communities. In other words, discomfort with and resentment towards a social group 
came to be focussed upon that group's symbol. Now, a full analysis along these lines 
would lead us deep into what might be called the sociology of conquest, something 
clearly beyond the scope of the present study. The evidence in our possession, while 
not excluding the possible utility of such an analysis, indicates three much more 
specific significations and functions of the cross which can be shown to have offended 
Muslims' sensibilities and to have aroused their opposition. Antipathy to the cross 
involved (a) antipathy to the token of victory of a hostile power; (b) antipathy to the 
object of a cult considered idolatrous; and -- most importantly for the present study 
-- (c) antipathy to a sign declaring doctrines held to be (at the very least) false, and 
frequently blasphemous. In the pages that follow, we shall analyze each of these 
three offense-giving aspects of the cross in turn. 

A. "The Cross Has Conquered" 
1. Introduction 

The Kitab al-fitan of Nu'aym b. Hammad (d. 842)( 35 > is a work reflecting the 
beliefs, hopes, and fears of the South Arabian Muslims of the garrison town of Hims, 
on the front line of the struggle with Byzantium. In it we find several recensions of 
a hadith report of the Umayyad period, a simple version of which, narrated by Halid 
b. Ma'dan, runs as follows:( 36 ) 

I said to 'Abd Allah b. Busr: "[What about] the conquest of Constantinople?" 

He answered: "She will not be conquered until there will be a peace between 
the Muslims and them [i.e., the Byzantines]. They will carry out a campaign together. 
When they depart, having gained booty, they will alight at their meadow. One of their 
men will raise a cross and say: 'The cross has conquered.' Then one of the Muslims 
will stand up to them, hit the cross, and break it. The Muslims will rise up and they 
will fight each other. God will give them the victory and at that time she will be 
conquered.''^ 37 ) 

35. Preserved in BL or. 9449. Wilferd Madelung has presented Nu'aym's work in a pair of articles: 
MADELUNG, "Sufyani" (1986) and "Prophecies" (1986). 

36. This is the transation of MADELUNG, "Prophecies" (1986), 173. 

37. Essentially the same report is related elsewhere in the Kitab al-fitan, though with different isnads 
and further details; see ibid., 173-74. The one recension possessing an isnad extending back to 
Muhammad may also be found in the hadith collections of Abu Da'ud, Ibn Magah, and Ibn 


It is possible that the hadith report reflects memories of an actual truce between the 
Muslims and the Byzantines, later broken, such as that between 'Abd al-Malik 
b. Marwan and Justinian II (emperor 685-95, 705-11)/ 38 ' But whatever its historical 
background, the report provides a vivid picture of the clash of Byzantine and Muslim 
attitudes with respect to the cross. For the Byzantines, after a victory it was natural 
to claim, "The cross has conquered" (galaba l-salib). For the Muslims, such a claim 
was an offence which quite naturally provoked a violent response. The task of the 
following pages is to document and elucidate this clash. 

2. The victorious cross and the Romans/Byzantines 

(a) Before the advent of Islam 

The fourth Christian century witnessed the genesis of a great body of 
traditions about the cross, which may be roughly divided into two "families": one 
deals with the (material) True Cross upon which Christ was crucified and its 
rediscovery or "invention" at Jerusalem/ 39 ' while the second has to do with 
appearances of celestial crosses (or related signs), in particular the dream or vision of 
Constantine and the appearance of a cross above Jerusalem early in the episcopacy of 
Cyril (bishop from ca. 350 to 386-87, with interruptions)/ 40 ' Whether taken together 
or separately, these families of tradition are a confused tangle of interpretation and 
reinterpretation, dependence and contradiction, which can be sorted out only with 
great difficulty. 

However great the tradition-historical difficulties presented by this material, 
one can easily grasp its significance to the imperial and ecclesiastical political struggles 
of the age/ 41 ' The role of the cross in ecclesiastical politics is well illustrated by the 
career of Cyril of Jerusalem, who skillfully exploited the presence of the True Cross 
in his city as well as the appearance of a heavenly cross over it to bolster his position 

Hanbal: ABU DA'UD, Sunan (1952), 11,424-25 (al-malahim 2), IBN MAGAH, Sunan (1952-53), 
11,1369 (#4089, fitan 35), and IBN HANBAL, Musnad (1895-96), IV.91; V371-72, 409. 

38. According to Theophanes, the peace was made in 6178 a.M. (686-87 A.D.) and broken by Justinian 
("thanks to a lack of good sense") in 6183 a.M. (691-92 A.D.); see DE BOOR, 
Chronographia (1883-85), I, 363-65 (a.M. 6178-83) [ET TURTLEDOVE, Chronicle (1982), 61-63]. For 
their numismatic battles over the cross, see below, pp. 76-77. 

39. For a tracing of the invention traditions with extensive bibliography see VAN ESBROECK, "Croix" 
(1979), 111-21. A much older but useful study is STRAUBINGER, Kreuzauffindungslegende (1912). 
On Helena's pilgrimage to the Holy Land and her connection with the invention traditions, see 
HUNT, Pilgrimage (mi), 28-49, 128-31. I have not yet seen Jan Willem DRIJVERS, Helena 
Augusta: The Mother of Constantine the Great and the Legend of Her Finding of the True 
Cross (coll. Brill's Studies in Intellectual History, 27), Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992. 

40. See again VAN ESBROECK, "Croix" (1979), 123-28, and also MOREAU, "Vision" (1953) and VOGT, 
"Kreuzerscheinungen" (1949). 

41. This was clearly pointed out in VOGT, "Kreuzerscheinungen" (1949), e.g. at p. 598. 


in his city as well as the appearance of a heavenly cross over it to bolster his position 
over against his Palestinian rivals and to claim a "crucial" place for Jerusalem in the 
Roman Christian construct of reality/ 42 ) Of greater importance to the present study is 
the role of the cross as a sign of divine favor toward the emperor, or one aspiring to 
that dignity. This "legitimizing" role comes through clearly in the famous story from 
Eusebius' Vita Constantino according to which Constantine and his army, while 
campaigning in Gaul, saw the sign of the cross in the afternoon sky with the 
inscription toutqj vtica ("in this, conquer")/ 44 ) Cyril of Jerusalem was probably aware 
of this account of Constantine's vision when, in his turn, he hastened to interpret the 
appearance of a heavenly cross over Jerusalem (traditionally but uncertainly dated to 
May 7, 351) as good news for the emperor Constantius II/ 45 ) In his turn, an 
anonymous Arian historian writing around 380 made Cyril's Jerusalem cross appear 
directly to Constantius and his army in Illyricum as they were about to engage the 
pagan usurper Magnentius in battle at Mursa (351)/ 46 ' In all of this, one motif is 
constant: the cross as an unambiguous sign of military victory for the 
divinely-favored Christian emperor. The adoption of this motif into the standard 
Byzantine imperial ideology is splendidly illustrated by a coin of the Theodosius II, 
issued in 423 after a successful campaign against the Sassanians. On its reverse, in an 
adaptation of the familiar image of Nike planting a trophy of victory, a standing 
figure of winged Victory holds before her a broad-armed Latin cross/ 47 ) 

If the fourth century (with the "invention" of the True Cross and celestial 
appearances eagerly recounted by imperial propagandists) witnessed a blooming of the 
Christian cult of the cross, the early seventh century (with the loss and recovery of 

42. See ibid., esp. 604, and WALKER, Holy City (1990), esp. 330-46. On the later development of the 
"True Cross" traditions as a reflection of Palestinian ecclesiastical politics, see the remarks of VAN 
ESBROECK, "Croix" (1979), 119. 

43. 1,28 (WINKELMANN, Konstantin (1975), 29-30). Although doubts about the authorship of the 
Vita have been expressed, contemporary scholarship tends to accept it as a genuine but 
posthumously published work of Eusebius (d. 339); see WALKER, Holy City (1990), 408. 

44. As is well known, the heavenly sign shown to Constantine "evolved" with the development of the 
tradition. MOREAU ("Vision" (1953)) documents the evolution of Constantine's signs from the 
(often six-pointed) star of the cult of Sol Invictus to the Christ monogramme, which first appears 
on coins in 317. It is to be remembered that Constantine's Christian standard par excellence was 
the labarum rather than the cross. Even the coins of Constantius II (emperor 337-61), Vetranio 
(usurper 350), and Gallus Caesar (caesar 351-54) bearing the legend HOC SIGNO VICTOR ERIS 
portray the ruler in military dress holding not the cross, but the labarum (which, however, may 
be surmounted by a cross); see COHEN, Monnaies (1880-92), VII, 461; VIII, 4, 36. 

45. Critical edition of Cyril's letter: BIHAIN, "Epitre" (1973). Concerning Cyril's knowledge of the 
story of the Vita Constantini and the date of the appearance of the cross over Jerusalem, see 
VAN ESBROECK, "Croix" (1979), 123-24. 

46. Fragments of the anonymous Arian chronicle are edited in BIDEZ, Philostorgius (1972), 202-41. 
The appearance of the heavenly cross is recounted at pp. 220-21. 

47. BRECKINRIDGE, Iconography (1959), 34-35 and Plate III, 25. 


the True Cross during the Persian wars) witnessed a revival of interest in it. Already 
in 615, the use of the cross as a palladium of the empire is witnessed by a coin of 
Heraclius bearing a cross and the inscription DEUS ADIUTA ROMANIA 48 ) As 
Heraclius set off in 622 for his first campaign in Persia his army was preceded by a 
fragment of the True Cross/ 49 ' Heraclius was finally successful in his Persian wars, 
and the recovery and restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem in 630 provided the 
occasion for a remarkable work by his official poet, George of Pisidia/ 50 ' For 
George, Heraclius was a providentially sent new Constantine who, strengthened by the 
life-giving Cross, was superior to all kings/ 51 ' The Cross, however, does not merely 
play a role in the background of the struggle as George describes it. Rather, the 
Cross itself took a direct part in the battle against the enemy: Khusraw felt it like a 
lance in his heart/ 52 ' and it appeared to the enemy as a new Ark of the Covenant, 
which launched living arrows against them/ 53 ' 

(b) After the advent of Islam 

Archaeological, historiographical, and liturgical evidence combine to give a 
picture of an extremely lively cult of the cross in a Byzantium engaged in a desperate 
struggle for survival with Islam. To begin with archaeology, Nicole Thierry has noted 
the centrality of the cross to the decoration of churches in Cappodocia from the 
period of the Muslim invasions and raids (that is, from the seventh through the 
mid-ninth centuries)/ 54 ' In one church, the central cross in an apse painting is labelled 
EHrNON TOY AITOY KOZTANTINOY ("sign of the holy Constantine")/ 55 ' This 
may be compared with a common soldier's amulet bearing, on one side, a cross and 
the legend EN TOYTO NIKA/ 56 ' Thierry concludes that the Cappadocian evidence 
points to a "preferential veneration for the cross" to be explained by its military value 
in a region continually on the front lines of the struggle with the Muslims/ 57 ' In 
Cappadocia this cross-piety gave way to other forms of piety in the mid-ninth century 
as the military threat receded (and as iconoclasm came to an end)/ 58 ' although 

48. A. GRABAR, Iconoclasme (1957), photograph 6, or THIERRY, "Culte" (1981), 207. 

49. FROLOW, Relique (1961), 189. Note that we have a similar report about the emperor Maurice 
from nearly a century earlier: his army was preceded by a fragment of the True Cross, fixed on 
a golden lance, as it departed for Thrace in 538 A.D.; ibid., 183. 

50. In restitutionem S. Crucis, in PERTUSI, Georgio di Pisidia (1959), 225-39 (ed., IT, and commentary). 

51. Ibid. 228, lines 61-66. 

52. Ibid., lines 68-69. 

53. Ibid., lines 73-77. 

54. THIERRY, "Culte" (1981). 

55. Ibid., 213-15. 

56. Ibid., 215. Thierry gives other evidence for the preservation of the Constantinian formula EN 
TOYTQ NIKA in military tradition at pp. 207-8. 

57. Ibid., 218. 

58. Ibid., 218-22. 


military situation remained precarious/ 59 ) 

Cross-piety and iconoclasm were a natural match in Byzantium; only on the 
extreme fringes of the Christian community did objections to the veneration of icons 
carry over to the veneration of the cross/ 60 ) Iconoclasm, the life-and-death struggle 
with Islam, and the cult of the victorious cross come together with great vividness in 
a propaganda piece of the iconoclast emperor Leo III (717-41), preserved by the 
Armenian historiographer Stephen of Taron (11th c.)/ 61 ) During the campaign of 717 
against Constantinople, the Muslim general Maslamah had threatened Leo as follows/ 62 ) 

Now, I vowed not to return to my land until 1 shall have taken away your kingdom, 
and destroyed your fortified city, and made the so-called Sophia, which is the house of 
your worship, into a bathhouse for my troops, and broken the wood of that cross, 
which you adore, over your head. 

After prayer, Leo responded/ 63 ) 

Why do you exult in wickedness, O one powerful in iniquity? If the rod of Moses, 
which was the archetype of the cross of Christ, made Pharoah sink, even more the 
standard of the holy cross will destroy you. 

Then the harbor was closed with a chain, and the emperor gave orders not to attack. 
Instead/ 64 ) 

the king himself took the unconquerable standard upon his shoulders, accompanied by 
the patriarch and the multitude of the populace, with candles and incense, raising a 
hymn, and came through the gate of the city. The king struck with the standard of 
the cross the water of the sea, saying thrice, "Help us, Christ, Savior of the world." 
And straightway the depths of the sea were stirred and drowned the army of Ishmael. 

Not only is Leo portrayed "as a veritable Moses redivivus, who causes the infidel to 
drown by the power of the cross,"< 65 ) he becomes the latest in a line of emperors - 
Constantine, Constantius, Heraclius - for whom victory in battle is to be attributed to 

59. Ibid., 227. 

60. We possess seventh-century Armenian texts which point to the existence of an Armenian 
iconoclastic movement opposed to the cult of images and of the cross; see DER NERSESSIAN, 
"Apologie" (1944-45), esp. 73-74. Recall also the doctrine of the monk Bahira/Sargis, who, 
according to the Arabic and Syriac stories, believed that there should be no more than one cross 
in a church, and (so the Syriac text) that of wood; see above, p. 24. 

61. The story is studied and its literary history sorted out in GERO, Iconoclasm (1973), 32-43. It is 
perhaps best known in the recension of the revisor of Levond's history, a FT of which has been 
published: CHAHNAZARIAN, Histoire (1858). The story of the siege of 717 is at pp. 105-8. 

62. Slightly adapted from the ET of GERO, Iconoclasm (1973), 134-35. 

63. Ibid., 135. 

64. Ibid., 136. 

65. Ibid, 37. 


Constantine, Constantius, Heraclius - for whom victory in battle is to be attributed to 
the cross. 

At the beginning of this century P. Bernardakis studied the liturgical 
dimensions of this "ardent devotion of the easterners for the cross, which they 
regarded as the sole pledge of victory," a devotion fanned into full flame in 
Byzantium both by fears aroused by the Islamic invasions and by the presence of the 
near totality of the True Cross in Constantinople after its transfer from Jerusalem in 
635.< 66 > He pointed out that "for the Greeks, the cross is not solely the sign of 
redemption, but is also the national emblem par excellence, the invincible pledge of 
victory presented by God Himself to Constantine at the beginning of his reign, at the 
foundation of the Byzantine monarchy.''^ 67 ) Bernardakis gives example upon example 
from the hymns of the Byzantine liturgy for the various feasts of the cross< 68 > in 
which the cross is extolled and invoked as a pledge of the emperor's victory and of 
the empire's preservation.^ 69 ) The flavor of these hymns is well represented by the 
KovtcLKiov of the Feast of the Exaltation, sung during the very act of exalting (the 
ui|/coaic) and adoring the True Cross:( 70 > 

O you who were raised voluntarily upon the cross, Christ our God: extend your mercy 
upon the new community which bears your name, and through your might give joy to 
our faithful kings by granting them victory against their enemies. May they have your 
help as a weapon of peace, an invincible trophy. 

A hymn sung during the adoration of the cross during the mid-Lent festival, 
attributed to Leo VI 'The Wise" (emperor 886-912), specifies the enemy:( 71 > 

In you [O Cross] our very faithful kings are glorified, because it is by your might that 
they powerfully subdue the Ishmaelite people. 

Church decoration from contested regions, amulets carried by simple soldiers, 
victory accounts put out by imperial propagandists, and the hymns of the faithful sung 
on various occasions throughout the year all point to the centrality of the cross as a 
pledge of imperial victory and personal and communal protection in a Byzantium 
repeatedly battling for its national life between the seventh and the ninth centuries. 

66. BERNARDAKIS, "Culte" (1901-2). The quotation is from p. 199. 

67. Ibid. 

68. Of special importance is the nine-day Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, climaxing on 
September 14. Also to be noted are: the adoration of the cross on the third Sunday in Lent 
(celebrated in Constantinople at least from the early eighth century); the procession of the cross 
on August 1 (later eighth century); and the observance of the appearance of the cross over 
Jerusalem on May 7 (ninth century). See ibid., 195-202, 257-64. 

69. See ibid., 199-200, 260-62. 

70. 'O uvj/uOeiq ev to oxaupu, ibid., 199. 

71. Ibid. 260. 


But if the cross was for the Byzantines a sign of national and military hope, for their 
opponents, the Muslims, the cross could only be a sign of all they opposed. It is 
therefore no mystery that Muslims developed an aversion to the symbol that, for the 
Byzantines, was "the pledge of universal domination and the national standard."* 72 ' 

(c) A numismatic battle of symbols 

One final example may serve to provide a very concrete illustration of the 
Byzantine-Islamic clash of attitudes towards the cross. In the closing years of the 
seventh century, the Umayyad caliph 'Abd al-Malik and the Byzantine emperor 
Justinian II fought an ideological battle on gold coins?** The cross, naturally, was at 
the center of the battle. 

The earliest gold coins issued by Justinian II (who acceded to the throne in 
685) were of a kind typical of much of the late sixth and seventh centuries, featuring 
the emperor wearing a crown and holding an orb, both surmounted by crosses, and, 
on the reverse, a cross potent on three steps/ 74 ) Such coins had been in circulation in 
the Islamic lands as well as in Byzantium: al-Baladuri reports that the gold coins of 
Heraclius had been in circulation in Mecca before the rise of Islam/ 75 ' and that the 
early Umayyads used to import gold coins from Byzantium in exchange for papyrus/ 76 ' 
According to some reports Mu'awiyah had attempted to issue his own dinars^ 77 ) but 
had failed. According to the Syriac "Maronite Chronicle," his issue "was not accepted 
because there was no cross on it."( 78 ' 

This state of affairs changed under 'Abd al-Malik/ 79 ' His first issues, probably 
to be dated around 690/ 80 ' were little more than an imitation of Byzantine coins 

72. Ibid., 200. 

73. For what follows, see especially MILES, "Coinage" (1967) for 'Abd al-Malik's coins, and 
BRECKINRIDGE, Iconography (1959) for Justinian's. Extensive bibliography will be found in both 

74. See BRECKINRIDGE, Iconography (1959), 20-22 and Plate I, 1-4; A. GRABAR, Iconoclasme (1957), 
photographs 10-11. For earlier coins with similar features see ibid., photographs 2-3 (Tiberias II), 
6 (Heraclius), 8 (Constans II), 9-10 (Constantine IV). 

75. In the Kitab futuh al-buldan, DE GOEJE, Liber (1866), 465. 

76. Ibid., 240, or IBN QUTAYBAH, Vyun (1925-30), 1,198. 

77. So al-Maqrizi in his Sudur al-uqud, MAYER, Vqud (1933), 4. 

78. BROOKS, Chronica (1904), 71/18-20. 

79. For the Islamic reports of his reform see especially DE GOEJE, Liber (1866), 467-8 and IBN 
QUTAYBAH, 'Vyun (1925-30), 1,198-99. 'Abd al-Malik's coinage reform is noted by a number of 
Christian historians, including Theophanes ("Chronography," a.M. 6183 (DE BOOR, 
Chronographia (1883-85), I, 365)) and the authors of a number of Syriac histories: the "Chronicle 
to the Year 819" (BARSAWM, "819" (1920), 13), the "Chronicle to the Year 846" (BROOKS, 
Chronica (1904), 232), and the secular "Chronicle" of Gregory Abu 1-Farag "Bar Hebraeus" 
(BUDGE, Chronography (1932), I, 104 [ET]). 

80. On the dating of these first Islamic gold coins see MILES, "Coinage" (1967), 224-29. 


similar to that of Justinian just described but with the cross-bars removed from 
crosses.^ This was followed by an issue (of 691 or 692) in which the vertical shafts 
"left over" from crosses on crowns and orbs were eliminated, what remained of the 
cross potent on the reverse was transformed into a rod ending in a knob, and on 
which the Kufic legends -dJI VI *JI V -dLJI ("In the name of God: there is 
no god but God alone") and <dJI J^-j ~u^» ("Muhammad is the apostle of God") 
appeared/ 82 ) 

Very possibly as a response to this act of presumption (in the Byzantine 
emperor's view, since the issuing of gold coins was an imperial prerogative), around 
the year 692 Justinian issued a new type of gold coin with the bust of Christ rather 
than the emperor on the obverse, with a cross behind his head and the legend IHS 
CRISTOS REX REGNANTIUM ("Jesus Christ, king of those who reign"). The reverse 
portrayed the emperor standing holding the cross potent on two steps, with the legend 
Dtominus] IUSTINIANUS SERUtus] CHRIST! ("Lord Justinian, servant of Christ")/ 83 ) 
'Abd al-Malik responded in 693 with his Standing Caliph dinar, named for the 
standing sword-girt caliph on the obverse (obviously a response to the standing 
cross-wielding emperor of Justinian's issue), while the reverse continued to portray the 
rod with knob on steps/ 84 ) A few years later, however, 'Abd al-Malik renounced 
iconography altogether with his issue (in 696-97) of purely epigraphical coins, 
inscribed with -J iLj-i V oJ<j>-j <dJI VI <JI V ("There is no god but God alone. He has 
no associate.") and the Qur'anic passages al-Tawbah (9):33 and al-lhlas (112)/ 85 ) 

In the course of 'Abd al-Malik's reform, then, crosses were first deprived of 
their cross-bars, and then either eliminated altogether or transformed into a rod with 
knob, very possibly representing the qadib or sceptre of the prophet Muhammad/ 86 ) 
Finally, where the cross potent had once proudly stood on the reverse of coins one 
finds instead the words of Surat al-lhlas: jl)^ ^Jj jlL -u— aJI aJUI <dJI ("God 
is One, the Everlasting Refuge, who has not begotten and has not been begotten"). In 
less than a decade, crosses had given way to anti-Christian polemic on the gold coins 
in official use by the Umayyad caliph. 

81. Ibid. 207-10 and Plate XLV, 1-8. 

82. Ibid., 210-11 and Plate XLV, 9-10 and XLVI, 1. 

83. BRECKINRIDGE, Iconography (1959), 22 and Plate 1,5; A. GRABAR, lconoclasme (1957), 
photographs 12-14. 

84. MILES, "Coinage" (1967), 212-24 and Plate XLVI, 2-6; A. GRABAR, lconoclasme (1957), photograph 

85. MILES, "Coinage" (1967), Plate XLVI, 7; A. GRABAR, lconoclasme (1957), photographs 65-66. 

86. Ibid., 73. 


3. The victorious cross and Christians in the Ddr al-lslam 

The complex of piety and ideology surrounding the cross as the imperial 
standard of victory did not disappear from the hearts and minds of Christians in 
Byzantium's lost eastern provinces, despite Islam's triumph. The stories of 
Constantine's vision, the "invention" of the True Cross, and its loss to the Persians and 
recovery by Heraclius continued to circulate and were translated into Arabic at an 
early date/ 87 ) Occasions for the rehearsal of these accounts were provided by 
liturgical feasts of the cross, especially the Feast of the Cross celebrated on September 
13 or 14 by Melkites, Jacobites, and Nestorians alike/ 88 ) 

Of course, the pressure of military and political realities shaped the way in 
which the first generations of Christian writers living within the Islamic caliphate 
made use of the cross/victory nexus of traditions and ideas. They faced the challenge 
of how credibly to make use of the tradition of the victory-giving cross in such a 
way as to give hope to Christian communities fallen under the Muslims' sway. This 
was no mean challenge, given the fact that the Christian Byzantines, who possessed 
the True Cross and marched behind the standard of the cross, had been reduced to a 
desperate struggle for national survival. 

(a) The cross on the dinar 

Quite naturally, the first generations of Christian writers to find themselves 
under Islamic rule were quick to seize on whatever events or phenomena might 
possibly be construed as evidence of the continuing validity of their vision of 
religio-political truth. The inability of caliphs before 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan to 
issue their own dinars could be seen as just such a phenomenon. Thus the author of 

87. We note, for example, the presence of Arabic versions of these accounts in ninth- and 
tenth-century manuscripts from Mount Sinai. The "invention" is recounted in a tenth-century 
manuscript presently divided between Bryn Mawr College, the University of Leiden, and the 
Mingana collection; see ESBROECK, "Remembrement" (1982), esp. 144-45. Ancient Arabic versions 
of Antiochus Strategos' "Capture of Jerusalem" are found in Sinai ar. NF perg. 1 (868 A.D.) and 
Sinai ar. 428 and 520 (both of the 10th c; these are edited with an LT in GARITTE, 
Expugnationis (1973)). Also to be noted is the account of Constantine's vision of and victory 
through the cross, and of the invention of the True Cross by St. Helena, in the Latin "Letter of 
Leo," which may derive from a ninth- or tenth-century Arabic original. 

88. See NAU, "Fete" (1914), 225, 229. Nau summarizes a Syriac sermon for the Feast of the Cross by 
Moses bar Kepha (815-903), which provides an excellent example of the way in which the 
Constantine and "invention" traditions were rehearsed by Jacobites in the ninth century. 


Question 42 of the "Questions Addressed to Antiochus the Dux"^ responded to the 
question "From whence is it clear that the faith in which we Christians believe is 
superior to all other faiths under heaven?" with the statement that the Muslims "not 
only were unable to crush the Emperor, but they were unable to delete his image, 
with that of the cross, from coins, even though several tyrants attempted to do so."( 90 > 
Similarly, in the "Dialogue of Papiscus and Philo," perhaps written in Egypt in the 
670s,( 91 > the Christian says: "The very coinage displays the Cross, which Cross reigns 
everywhere, is current everywhere."^ 

Christians who had taken comfort from the inability of caliphs to be rid of the 
image of the emperor and the cross on gold coins could not have been but severely 
shaken by the success of 'Abd al-Malik's reform. One Christian reaction to this 
reform is found in the Coptic "Apocalypse of (pseudo-) Athanasius,"* 93 ) written within 
a few decades of the evenU 94 > This work views 'Abd al-Malik's innovations in 
decidedly apocalyptic terms, as one of the depredations of the Ishmaelites whose 
advent is described as "the labor pains of the end"/ 95 * 

First, that nation will destroy the gold on which there is the image of the Cross of 
Our Lord, Our God, in order to make all the countries under its rule mint their own 
gold with the name of a beast written on it, the number of whose name is six hundred 
and sixty-six. 

For the Egyptian Christian author of the work, the effacement of the cross from gold 
coins and the appearance of the name of Muhammad could only be a sign of the 
impending End/ 96 ) 

89. On this work see WILLIAMS, Adversus Judaios (1935), 160-62; DEROUCHE, "Polemique" (1991), 279. 

90. PG 28, 623-24. The connection between this passage and Mu'awiyah's unsuccessful monetary 
reform was pointed out in CRONE/COOK, Hagarism (1977), 11. 

91 See WILLIAMS, Adversus Judaios (1935), 169-74; DEROUCHE, "Polemique" (1991), 279. I suggest a 
date in the 670s on the basis of the text's statement that the Jews have been scattered for 600 

92. Cited in WILLIAMS, Adversus Judaeos (1935), 173. I have not been able to find a copy of the 
edition of this text: A.C McGIFFERT, Dialogue between a Christian and a Jew, Marburg: 1889. 

93. Edition, ET and study in MARTINEZ, Apocalyptic (1985), 248-590. See also ORLANDI, Omelie 
(1981), 73-91 [ITl and idem, "Testo" (1985). 

94. MARTINEZ {Apocalyptic (1985), 267) argues that the text dates from "the decade preceding 724." 

95. Ibid., 528-29. The following is Martinez' ET, pp. 529-30, of the Coptic text found at p. 372. 

96. Another apocalyptic text which refers to the coinage reform is the "Letter of (pseudo-) Pisentius" 
(ed. and FT in PERIER, "Pisuntios" (1914); on the monetary reform, see p. 306 [FT 318D. 


(b) The cross in apocalyptic imagination 

If the cross/emperor/victory complex of tradition and conviction failed to 
describe the present reality of Christians living under Islamic rule, one possibility for 
continuators of the tradition was to use it to describe the future. This is what we 
find in the remarkable Syriac "Apocalypse of (pseudo-) Methodius,"' 97 ) written in 
northern Mesopotamia in the second half of the seventh century/ 98 ) The work, is an 
attempt to give a comprehensive view of history which is capable of explaining the 
advent of the Muslims, but which sustains hope in the final victory of the Christian 
Romans. As Reinink in particular emphasized, one feature of this attempt is a 
constant stress on the meaning of the cross.' 99 ) The "Ishmaelites" might at first 
overpower all the peoples they encounter, but "after ten weeks of those years they 
also will be overpowered and subjected by the kingdom of Rome, . . . because it 
possesses truly that unconquerable weapon that conquers all."' 100 ) Soon afterwards it is 
explcitly stated that the "unconquerable weapon" possessed by Rome is the holy 
Cross:' 101 ) 

For there is no people or kingdom under heaven that can overpower the kingdom of 
the Christians as long as it possesses a place of refuge in the life-giving Cross, which is 
set up in the center of the earth and possesses its power over height and depth. . . . 
Which is the power or kingdom of people below heaven that is mighty and strong in 
its power and will be able to prevail over the great power of the Holy Cross in which 
the kingdom of the Greeks, that is of the Romans, possesses a place of refuge? 

And thus the day will come, says the author, when a king of the Greeks will go forth 
against the Ishmaelites, defeat them, and bring in "the last peace of the perfection of 
the world," when "men will sit down in great peace and the churches will arise 

97. Two editions and three versions of the work appeared in 1985: MARTINEZ, Apocalyptic (1985), 
58-201 (ed. and ET); SUERMANN, Reaktion (1985), 34-85 (ed. and GT); ALEXANDER, Tradition 
(1985), 36-51 (ET). 

98. There is not yet any scholarly consensus with regard to the ecclesial provenance and the date of 
the work. Very plausible arguments for a Nestorian provenance of the work are advanced in 
REININK, "Ismael" (1982). Although ALEXANDER (Empire (1978), essay XII, 68-68a) abandoned 
his previous thesis that the work reflected an intra-Monophysite polemic, SUERMANN (Reaktion 
(1985), 161) continues to lean towards a Jacobite provenance. To complete the disagreement, 
MARTINEZ (Apocalyptic (1985), 27-28) thinks that the author may have been a Melkite. With 
regard to the date, ALEXANDER ("Migration" (1971), 57, 65-66 (note 29)) and SUERMANN 
(Reaktion (1985), 160-61) opt for the period between 644 and 674, while BROCK ("Sources" (1976), 
34, REININK ("Ismael" (1982), 339 note 19), and (with great caution) MARTINEZ 
(Apocalyptic (1985), 28-32 opt for the period between 685 and 692. 

99. REININK, "Ismael" (1982), 340-41 (note 25). For more comprehensive interpretations of the work 
see ALEXANDER, Tradition (1985), 13-33 and MARTINEZ "Genre" (1987), 340-52. 

100. This is the translation of ALEXANDER, Tradition (1985), 39. 

101. Ibid, 42. 


nearby, and cities will be built and priests will be freed from the tax, and priests and 
men will rest . . . from labor and tiredness and torture."* 102 ) 

This, however, is but the penultimate phase of human history. According to 
the author of the apocalypse, "the priesthood and the kingship and the Holy Cross" 
constituted that "restrainer" (6 Kate%o)v) before whose removal the Son of Perdition 
could not be revealed (according to his exegesis of 2 Thessalonians 2:3-8). This 
"removal" takes place, in a way conforming to Psalm 68:32 (Peshitta) and 

I Corinthians 15:24, as follows:* 103 ) 

[TJhen the king of the Greeks will go up and will stand on Golgotha and the Holy 
Cross will be set in that place in which it was set up when it carried the Christ. And 
the king of the Greeks will place his diadem on top of the Holy Cross, and will 
stretch out his two hands to heaven and will hand over the kingship to God the 
Father. And the Holy Cross on which Christ was crucified will be raised to heaven 
and the crown of kingship with it ... . [A]nd the king of the Greeks will give up 
his soul to his creator. And immediately every leader and every authority and all 
powers will cease. And immediately the Son of Perdition will be revealed .... 

But after a certain period Christ will come, preceded by his cross, and will deliver the 
Son of Perdition to Hell-fire and his saints to his heavenly kingdom. 

The tangle of traditions that come together in "The Apocalypse of (pseudo-) 
Methodius," as well as the work's extraordinary influence on subsequent apocalyptic 
literature, also in medieval Europe, have been studied by others.* 104 ) What is 
important here is the fact that the work was widely read by Christians in the Dar 
al-Isldm, and played a major role in shaping their apocalyptic imagination. In this 
way a long tradition of ideas about the Roman emperor victorious through the 
invincible cross found a home in the hopes and dreams of Christians living as dimmis 
under Islamic rule. 

(c) The cross and the Abbasid revolt 

Another example of the way traditions about the victory-bestowing cross came 
to expression in the Dar al-lslam is to be found in the "History of the Patriarchs of 
Alexandria," Life 46 (Patriarch Michael I, 744-68), originally written in Coptic in 
about 770 A.D. by one Yuhanna, spiritual son of Musa, bishop of Waslm.* 105 ) 
Yuhanna's account of the Abbasid revolt and the end of the Umayyad caliph Marwan 

II (744-50) - an end which involved much devastation in Egypt and great hardship for 
Michael - is punctuated by references to the cross. According to Yuhanna, it was 

102. Ibid., 49. 

103. Ibid., 50. 

104. See the works mentioned in note 97 above. On the influence of the apocalypse on subsequent 
writings, see ALEXANDER, "Migration" (1971). 

105. On the sources and redaction the "History of the Patriarchs" see DEN HEIJER, 
H istoriographie (1989). 


through the sign of the cross that the Abbasid rebels achieved victory against 
enormous odds in their struggle against the Umayyad stated 106 ) 

And Abu Muslim saw the angel of the Lord, with a golden rod in his hand, on the 
top of which was a Cross, putting his enemies to flight; for, wherever the Cross 
approached, he saw them fall dead before it. So the followers of Abd Allah and Abu 
Muslim took the horses and weapons of the enemy. 

And as a result, Abu Muslim adopted the cross as his standard:* 107 ) 

So the old man Abu Muslim bade his soldiers make crosses of every kind, and place 
them on their breasts, saying to them: "By means of this sign God has given us the 
victory, and it has conquered the empire for us." 

Remarkably, Yuhanna has made Abu Muslim (d. 755), the great leader of the Abbasid 
rebellion, into a new Constantine! Thereby he found a way to uphold the truth of 
traditional Christian claims about the victory-giving cross, using them to explain 
events that had taken place within living memory. What is startling about Yuhanna's 
narrative, of course, is that the beneficiaries of the power of the victory-giving cross 
were other than a Christian emperor and his followers - in fact, other than Christians! 
Furthermore, as Yuhanna's readers knew full well, the Abbasids did not subsequently 
become followers of the cross. Therefore Yuhanna was constrained to report some 
pages later that in their triumph "the Khorassanians forgot that it was God who had 
given them the government, and neglected the holy Cross which had gained them the 
victory ."d 08 ) 

(d) The cross and the Byzantine revival 

Because of the political and military realities that pertained during the greater 
part of the eighth and ninth centuries, most of the Christian writers surveyed in the 
present study were quite restrained in their use of the cross/victory nexus of 
traditions and ideas. Reaching back into the biblical and patristic heritage, as well as 
a long tradition of popular cross-piety/ 109 ) they tended to describe the victory of the 
cross in spiritual and thaumaturgic rather than military terms. For all of the Christian 
apologists surveyed here, the cross is indeed a sign of victory - but over SatanS U0 > It 

106. The following is the ET of EVETTS, History (1907-15), V, 152. 

107. Ibid., 153. 

108. Ibid. 189. 

109. For a good discussion of the cross in patristic teaching, liturgy, and popular Byzantine piety, see 
STOCKMEIER, Chrysostomus (1966), 192-254. The apotropaic function of the cross in Byzantium 
is richly illustrated in MAGUIRE, House (1989), 18-22 and the illustrations referred to there. 

110. For an example from al-Gami wuguh al-lman, see below, pp. 161-62. 


is an efficacious weapon - against the demonsV"'* It is powerful - in every manner 
of life-giving and life- preserving miracleP xv > Within the Dar al-lslam stories about 
miracles done through the virtue of the cross did, of course, bear an apologetic and 
community-sustaining point: by means of these miracles, God Himself has borne 
witness to the truth of the religion of the cross/ 113 ' But what we do not generally 
find in the Arabic Christian apologies of the eighth and ninth centuries is any claim 
that the cross is a sign and pledge of military victory. 

This fact may strike modern Christians as a salutary development, a purging 
of a sub-Christian element from one particular stream of the Christian apologetic 
tradition. However, our references to the "Apocalypse of (pseudo-) Methodius" and to 
Life 46 of "The History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria" have shown that the complex 
of ideas in which the cross was a pledge of military victory continued to live a sort 
of underground existence in the apocalyptic and historical imaginations of Christians 
living in the Dar al-lslam. Once Christians marching behind the standard of the 
cross were once again achieving victories - as began to happen, though not without 
setbacks, in the second half of the ninth century - the cross as a pledge of military 
victory reappeared also in their apologetic imagination. This, at least, is a plausible 
explanation for the appearance of the claim that the cross is the "flag of triumph and 
victory over all enemies'^v in the additions of the befa-recension of the Ibrahim 
al-Tabaram debate, which may be dated to the late ninth or early tenth century/ 115 ) 
The same claim is made yet more sharply in some recensions of the "Abu Qurrah" 
debate: "there is no king who goes out to battle his foe, and has with him the sign of 
the cross, but that the victory is his."( 116 > It is inconceivable that the historical Abu 
Qurrah would have made such a claim at the court of al-Ma'mun! On the other hand, 
such a claim would fit perfectly well with the brilliant series of Byzantine military 
successes achieved in the east between 934 (the capture of Melitene) and 975, by 

111. E.g., in al-Burhan of Peter of Bayt Ra's, where the cross is the third of the "medicines and 
ointments" (al-adwiyah wa-l-marahim) left us by Christ, after baptism and the eucharist. See 
CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61), I, 158 (#288). 

112. There is no end to the examples that can be given of healings, exorcisms, and various sorts of 
wonders done with the sign of the cross; "The History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria" is full of 
them. For an example from the Arabic apologetic literature we might mention the trial by ordeal 
of Ibrahim al-Tabarani at the conclusion of the debate-report. According to the story, Ibrahim 
signed the cup of poison with the cross before drinking it (without harm), exorcised the emir's 
servant-girl with the sign of the cross, and made the sign of the cross before putting his hands in 
the fire (again, without harm). See MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 516-27 (#546-65, in particular 
#552, 558, and 565). 

113. On the role of evidentiary miracles in the Arabic Christian apologies, see below, pp. 277-80. 

114. »U*^|I C- . --- T *-J-*Jl ) j-*jJ1 olj in Vatican ar. 136, f. 142 r . Other manuscripts of the 

bera-recension give similar (but not identical) expressions. For the passage of the a/p/za-recension 
of which this is an expansion, see below, p. 92. 


See above, pp. 26-28. 


*i\ .... in Paris ar. 70, f. 181 v /4-7. 


which time most of Syria and Palestine and a large part of Mesopotamia were under 
Byzantine control/ 117 ' The re-emergence of the claim of military victory through the 
cross in Arabic apologetic literature corresponds to a change of tone easily discerned 
in the Byzantine polemical literature: while as violent a polemicist as Nicetas of 
Byzantium (second half of the 9th c.) had to give an uncharacteristically sober 
explanation of the military successes of the "Hagarenes" as divine chastisement/ 118 ' the 
"Letter to the Emir of Damascus," dated by its editor to 920-22, can taunt the emir 
about recent military reverses/ 119 ' while an insulting Arabic poem sent on the 
authority of the Byzantine emperor Nicephoros to the caliph al-Muti' in 966-67 can 
list no fewer than fifteen victories won between 943 and 966/ 120 ' 

4. A concluding comment 

Our investigations into Christian convictions and dreams about the 
victory-giving cross have ranged over a period of six centuries, and have crossed the 
frontier between the empire and the caliphate. These have demonstrated the 
conceptual accuracy of the hadith report of Halid b. Ma'dan with which we began our 
discussion. The statement "The cross has conquered" on the lips of a Christian warrior 
is no oddity, but accurately expresses an important element not only in 
Roman/Byzantine imperial ideology, but also in the deep and quietly-nurtured hopes 
of Christians living within the Ddr al-lslam. Christians on both sides of the frontier 
looked to the cross as a divine pledge of final victory - over Islam. Can there be 
any wonder that Muslims reacted to the cross with aversion? 

117. The correspondence between Christian apologetic claims for the military virtues of the cross and 
the Byzantine successes of the tenth century was pointed out by Armand Abel, e.g. in ABEL, "St. 
Theodore" (1949), 234-36. 

118. At the end of his "Refutation of the Quran," XXX, in PG 105, 801-5 [French summary in A.-T. 
KHOURY, Theologiens (1969), 161-62]. One may compare the "Passion of the Forty-Two Martyrs 
of Amorium" written by Evodius (d. 883), who concludes that monophysitism, monotheletism, and 
iconoclasm had provoked God's wrath, and that the Muslims were the rod with which He 
chastised the Christians; ibid., 163-79. 

119. The most recent edition of the work is KARLIN-HAYTER, "Letter" (1959-60) [FT ABEL, "Lettre" 
(1954)]. The taunt is found at p. 300/23-30 [FT 386]. On the dating, see pp. 284-85. 

120. VON GRUNEBAUM, "Polemik" (1937), esp. 45-46. 


B. "Fuel for the Flames of Hell" 
1. Introduction 

In his book La croix dans I'lslam, Habib Zayat brought together a number of 
interesting verses about the cross by Muslim poets of the Umayyad period/ 121 ' The 
poet Garir/ 122 ' a favorite of 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'AzTz (caliph 717-20), once observed the 
veneration of the cross and commented as follows/ 123 ' 


In St. Simeon's monastery I saw a cross, 

which fawns and gazelles^ 124 ' kiss. 
The clergy magnify, embrace, 

and kiss it, and weeping chokes them. 
And I said to them: Leave off! Is this other than a wooden rod 

which bending and straightening have possessed? 

Zayat cites other verses in which the cross is described as a "Baal" (ba'l) or an "idol" 
(watan), the "god" (Hah) which the Christians worship.nzs) He also reproduces the 
following amusing lines attributed to Walld b. YazTd (caliph 743-44), who was 
captivated by a beautiful Christian girl going to church on a feast day/ 126 ' 

121. ZAYAT, Croix (1935), 18-19. 

122. GAS I, 56-58. 

123. ZAYAT, Croix (1935), 18. 

124. I.e., young women and men. 

125. Ibid., 18-19. Cf. the verse of Gabir b. 'Atiyah cited by al-Tabari, where Christians are described as 
those who "worshipped the cross and gave the lie to Muhammad"; TABARI, Tafsir (1955-), II, 388 
(on al-Baqarah (2):97). 

126. ZAYAT, Croix (1935), 18. 

'j^U <^-z*->. 1*JL*J' CJj I* 


(1) Ed. 


I continued to watch her with my gazing eye 

until I observed her kissing a wooden rod — 
the wood of the cross. Alas for my soul! Who of you 

has seen a cross like it worshipped? 
But then I asked my Lord that I should take its place, 

even though I become fuel for the flames of Hell. 

The conceit is charming, but its underlying assumption is clear: the cross is 
tantamount to an idol, and its destiny is to burn in the eternal Fire. 

2. Muslim charges of idolatrous cross worship 

It is not solely in Islamic poetry that we encounter the assumption that the 
cross is an idol, and that Christian veneration of it is idolatry. A number of hadith 
reports to this effect found their way into the early compilations of hadith and Qur'an 
commentary. There is, for example, the story of 'Adi b. Hatim, who recounts that 
when he approached Muhammad with a gold cross at his neck the Prophet said, "O 
'Adi, cast this idol (watan) from your neckH 1 ??) Descriptions of the Day of 
Judgement predict the damnation of Christians as worshippers of the cross, just as 
idolaters are damned as worshippers of idols.' 128 ) In another hadith report preserved 
by Ibn Hanbal, Muhammad describes himself as having been sent by God to eradicate 
string- and wind-instruments, idols (al-awtan), crosses, and things of the time of 
pre-Islamic ignorance in general/ 129 ) Such hadith reports played a role in resolving the 
legal question of whether compensation was due for the destruction of religiously 
objectionable items made of intrinsically worthless materials. In raising this issue, 

al-Buhan gives as examples "an idol (sanam), a cross, or a stringed instrument 

Muslim polemicists frequently charged Christians with idolatrous worship of 
the cross. 'All al-Tabari in his al-Radd 'aid l-Nasdrd mocked his Christian readers 
with: "You make a wooden [cross] with your hands and hang it around your 

127. TABARl, Tafslr (1954-57), X, 114 (on al-Tawbah (9):31); TIRMIDi, Sunan (1965-68), VIII, 248 
(#3094; tafslr Sural al-Tawbah (9), 10). 

128. BUHARI, Sahlh (1862-1908), IV, 463 (tawhld 24); cf. TIRMIDI, Sunan (1965-68), VII, 234 (#2560; 
sifal al-gannah 20) and IBN HANBAL, Musnad (1895-96), II, 368. 

129. IBN HANBAL, Musnad (1895-96), V, 268. 

130. BUHARI, Sahlh (1862-1908), II, 107 (title to Mazalim 32). 


necksH 131 ) The author of the "Letter of 'Umar" wrote as follows:< 132 > 


You magnify the cross and the image, and kiss them and prostrate yourselves to 
them; but they are things that people have made with their hands, which neither hear 
nor see, and work neither harm nor benefit! (The greatest of them, in your view, are 
those made of gold or silver.) Thus were the folk of Abraham doing with their images 
and idols/ 133 ) 

Elsewhere '"Umar" points out that the veneration of crosses and icons is an idolatrous 
innovation: Moses, Jesus, and the prophets "made neither cross nor image."* 134 ) Part 
of Muhammad's mission, therefore, was to forbid the worship of sun, moon, idols, 
cross, image, or other human beings."* 135 ) 

If 'All and 'Umar wrote in the second half of the ninth century, Muslim 
polemicists had made the charge of cross-idolatry much earlier. This is clearly seen 
from the fact that nearly all of the major Christian apologists included in the present 
survey, beginning with the catholicos Timothy, had to respond to it. 

3. Christian responses 

(a) In seventh-century polemics with the Jews 

The accusation that Christians were guilty of idolatrous worship of the cross 
(and the icons) was by no means original to the Christian-Muslim controversy. It had, 
in fact, been a standard feature of the Christian-yew/s/z controversy which, to judge 

131. mZ ip^j-L.L. i_L>- jj . : .<a~, citation preserved in the refutation of al-Safi b. 
al-'Assal, al-Sahaih ft gawab al-nasa'ih. Chapter 14 ("On Magnifying the Cross"): Vatican ar. 33, 
f. 147 r and 38, f. 110 v ; MURQUS GIRGAS, Saha'ih (1927-28), 121/2 (where the first word is read 
as j jjt^aZ). 

132. SOURDEL, "Pamphlet" (1966), 29/12-14. 

133. Cf. Maryam (19):41-42, al-Su'ara (26):69-73. That the cross works "neither harm nor benefit," 
echoing al-Su'ara (26):73, is a standard feature of the Muslims' accusation, appearing in the 
so-called "Letter of al-Hasimi" (TARTAR, "Dialogue" (1977), 29/7) and in the dialogue of Ibramim 
al-Tabarani (MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 502-3 (#512)). 

134. ET of Romance text by GAUDEUL, "Correspondence" (1984), 136 (#17). 

135. SOURDEL, "Pamphlet" (1966), 33/3-4. 


from the literary remains at our disposal, broke out and was carried on with great 
vigor in seventh-century Syria, Palestine, and Egypt/ 136 ) Practically all of these texts 
record the question, "Why do you Christians worship the cross (and/or icons, relics, 
etc.)?" often alluding to the Old Testament prohibitions and condemnations of idolatry 
(e.g. Exodus 20:4 = Deuteronomy 5:8, Psalm 135:15-18, Isaiah 44:14-17). 

Christians developed a repertory of responses that are repeated throughout the 
literature, and which may be summarized as follows/ 1 37 > 

(i) The cross* 138 ' serves to awaken our memory of the one whom it represents. 

(ii) Christian veneration of the cross is not pagan worship, but a movement of 
love toward the one represented by the cross. It is therefore not worship of the 
nature of the wood, as is proved by the fact that the beams of the cross, when 
separated, may be burnt. 

(iii) Everyday custom provides many examples of veneration of an object as an 
expression of love, loyalty, or obedience to the person with whom it is associated: 
respect paid to the image or seal of the king, tears over the garment or ornament of 
a loved one who has died, etc. 

(iv) The Old Testament as well gives many examples of veneration that is not 
idolatrous worship: e.g., Jacob did obeisance to the staff of Joseph (Genesis 47:31, 
LXX), and the children of Israel did obeisance to the Ark of the Covenant, the 
cherubim, and the tablets of the Law. 

(v) The Old Testament contains prophecies of the cross. The cross is the "sign" 
(LXX: oriiJLeicooic,, orineTov, ouoor|p.ov) alluded to in Psalm 60:4, 86:17; Isaiah 5:26; 
Ezekiel 9:4-6. It is the blessed wood "by which righteousness comes" of Wisdom 14:7 
(LXX). Furthermore, the Old Testament is full of types of the cross: Jacob's hands 
crossed in blessing (Genesis 48:14), Moses' rod with which he divided the sea (Exodus 
14:16, 21, 27) and brought water out of the rock (Numbers 20:11), the tree with which 
Moses sweetened the water of Marah (Exodus 15:23-25), Moses' outstretched hands as 
Israel battled Amalek (Exodus 17:8-13), and the brazen serpent in the wilderness 
(Numbers 21:4-9), to name a few. 

(vi) Contemporary Jews venerate the Book of the Law/ 139 ) 

136. On this controversy and its literary remains, see below, pp. 120-21. It is worth noting that the 
accusation of icon- and cross-idolatry was a new feature in this seventh-century outburst of 
Christian-Jewish controversy; see DEROCHE, "Polemique" (1991), 290-92. 

137. For the items listed here see: the writings of Leontius of Nicomedia (and others) as summarized 
in BAYNES, "Icons" (1951); "The Teaching of Jacob the Newly-Baptized," 1,34 
(DAGRON/DEROCHE, "Juifs" (1991), 120-21); "The Dialogue of Papiscus and Philo" (extract in 
NAU, "Didascalia" (1912), 740); "Questions Addressed to Antiochus the Dux" Question 39 (PG 28, 
621-22); "The Trophies of Damascus," VI.1-9 (BARDY, Trophees (1920), 245-50); and, from the 
eighth century, "The Disputation of Sergius the Stylite against a Jew," X,2, XII.1-13 (HAYMAN, 
Disputation (1973), 22, 29-32 [ET 23-24, 30-331). 

138. Wherever "cross" is mentioned in this summary, "icons" may be understood as well. 

139. Also, Theodore Abu Qurrah may have been taking up a seventh-century argument when, at the 
beginning of the ninth century, he reminded Jews that they would have venerated the eben 


(vii) The cross is responsible for miracles, terrorizes the demons, and brings 
sinners to repentance. 

These points were all worked out by Christians a century and more before the 
first flowering of the Islamic radd-literature, and therefore Christian apologists were 
well prepared when Muslims asked (as the caliph al-Mahdi asked the catholicos 
Timothy in 781): "Why do you prostrate yourselves to the cross?"< 140 > 

(b) In controversy with the Muslims 

The extent to which Christian responses to Muslim accusations of cross-idolatry 
were a repetition or an obvious refashioning of material used in the earlier 
controversy with the Jews may be seen by simply working through the above list of 
arguments^ 141 ) 

(i) The cross is a reminder of the one who died upon it for humankind's 
salvation. "The cross represents this grace before our eyes," writes "al-Kindl," "and 
incites us to give thanks to the one who brings and bestows this graced 142 ) The 
author al al-Gdmi' wuguh al-imdn takes another step, maintaining that the cross is the 
"substitute" (halaf) left by Christ for his followers^ 143 ) 

jl LJLi .aJlS' ^>Ji Ll^I * ■ 1 ■<* -j . s jJL~> t^Ju«9 L_ij £y~~<>J\ jl 
. Lp v-jLp il t4JL» n LaJL>- (1 V.,JL/> L^~- ) 4*L*-JI ^Jl Luj Jl ^juj\ 

* ' t 

(1) MS «JU». 

Christ our Lord was crucified in his flesh, and through his crucifixion we 
obtained all good. When Christ our Lord ascended into heaven he designated for us 
his cross as a "substitute" for him, since he had vanished from our sight. Therefore we 
prostrate ourselves to it and call to our imagination his crucifixion, in which is our 

setiyyah of Jerusalem (the stone upon which the Ark had rested, now enclosed by the Dome of 
the Rock) had they been permitted to so do; DICK, Icones (1986), 177-79 (Ch. 17, #7-15). 

140. v^o L |_L20 1 =3 ^ ■ MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 113/1/4-5. 

141. What follows is constructed from Arabic Christian responses to questions by Muslims specifically 
about the veneration of the cross. Similar arguments are to be found in Theodore Abu Qurrah's 
"Chapters on Prostration to the Icons" (DICK, Icones (1986)), in which he defends the 
icons (although he also mentions the aniconic cross) in the light of Muslim and Jewish objections. 

142. l*Jjj JLp Li»«, tLijpl 4—^ c^uJl ojL» jL, .....LaJl;, TARTAR, "Dialogue" (1977), 

143. In Chapter 18, Question #8, BL or. 4950, f. 120 r /9-13. See also Chapter 24, ff. 166 v -173 v 


(ii) Christian veneration of the cross is therefore not pagan worship. "We do not 
worship (la na'budu) the cross" is a frequently encountered expression/ 144 ) Instead, as 
the catholicos Timothy explains, the cross is the means by which human beings show 
their love to God, since it was the means by which He showed his love for them/ 145 ) 
Or, as the Nestorian 'Ammar al-Basrl writes, "by blessing ourselves with (bi-l-tamassuh 
bi-) the token upon which was crucified the flesh which was the veil of our Creator, 
we mean to magnify our Creator and to draw near to Him."* 14 *) 

The arabophone apologists display considerable ingenuity in substantiating their 
claim that Christian veneration of the cross is not to be compared with pagan 
worship. "al-Kindi" argues that Christians cannot be adoring the wood, since they also 
make crosses out of other materials (gold, silver, stone, jewels), or draw them, or trace 
its sign with the hand/ 147 ) Abu Ra'itah, on the other hand, emphasizes the meanness 
(hasasah) of the symbol of the cross and of the wood of which it is normally made: 
were Christians indeed idolaters, they would surely prostrate themselves to a more 
honorable symbol made of more exalted materials!* 1 48 > Ibrahim al-Tabarani takes it as 
a given that idolaters do not make public show of their divinities, and can point out, 
by way of contrast, that Christians display the cross "on the summit of every 
mountain and in every place."* 149 ) 

(iii) 'Ammar al-Basri and "al-Kindi" point out that this non-idolatrous veneration 
of an object may be illustrated from everyday life. It is accepted custom to kiss the 
king's hand or feet or written decrees/ 150 ) One may even do him honor by kissing 
the hoof of his mount, or the earth upon which he has trod. Furthermore, one may 
attempt to draw near to God by blessing oneself with the garment of a holy man/ 151 ) 
In none of these cases is there any suggestion of idolatry. 

(iv) -(v) If Old Testament arguments were a natural part of Christian defences 

144. — Ibrahim al-Tabarani: \»a t Uj-.-nJ ("No, by my life, we do not worship it!"), 

MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 504-5 (#518). 

— "al-Kindi": u^JUaJl ^ ill>Jl i LJi u_ , l.<a.ll a_«J ^ ^jLaJl _,.;»« LJi ("We Christians 
do not worship the cross, but the [divine] power residing in the cross"), TARTAR, "Dialogue" 
(1977), 167/7-8. 

— al-Gami' wuguh al-iman. Chapter 18, Question #8: .iJLS'] o.ujj i»l £ *- .,1-a.Ll Jj>. ! 

<;U (j-J 'Iji*^ : * j*^ ("We prostrate ourselves to the cross with a prostration of honor and 

esteem, not a prostration of worship"), BL or. 4950, f. 120 v /l— 2. 

145. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 113/2/15-18, cf. PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 35* (#182). 

146. <Ji j2sJ\ j LiJL»- i, 1 "-" LiJU>- <_jL>t»- (jiJl j-LJl >_ .L^» i^-Ul jU-DL »_ - J L -uyj, in Kitab 
al-burhan. Chapter 11, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 87V15-17. 

147. TARTAR, "Dialogue" (1977), 165/18-166/1. The same argument appeared earlier (late eighth 
century?) in another Nestorian text, Chapter 10 of the (Syriac) Scholion of Theodore bar Koni (see 
SCHER, Bar Koni (1910-12), II, 270/9-17). 

148. In The Apology for the Christian Religion," GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 153 (#24). 

149. jlSL. JT J 3 MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 504-5 (#518). 

150. So "al-Kindi," TARTAR, "Dialogue" (1977), 166/7-10. 

151. See 'Ammar's Kitab al-burhan, Ch. 11, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 87V17-19. 


against Jewish charges of idolatry, their use became somewhat more problematic in 
the controversy with the Muslims/ 152 ) All the same, the catholicos Timothy cites 
Exodus 15:23-25 and Numbers 21:4-9 as he sings the benefits of the cross/ 153 ) while 
"al-Kindl" makes use of the traditional argument concerning Israel's veneration of the 
Ark of the Covenant, the story of which he tells in some detail/ 154 ) But first 
"al-Kindi" needs to commend the topic to his Muslim "correspondent": "We find in 
the books sent down {al-kutub al-munazzalah) from God that the prophets used to 
venerate the Ark which Moses made by the command of God (blessed be His name!), 
and prostrate themselves before it."( 155 > In venerating the cross, Christians are simply 
following the usage (sunnati) of God's righteous prophets (al-anbiya' al-abrdr)P s ^ 

(vi) Christian apologists of the seventh century had reminded Jews that 
they venerated the book of the Law, and therefore had no cause to blame Christians 
for the veneration of the cross. Similarly, arabophone apologists of the ninth century 
remind Muslims that they venerate the Black Stone of the Ka'bah, which (as 'Ammar 
al-Basri points out) the pagans had honored and kissed/ 157 ) The Christians could then 
indulge in Cross/Stone comparisons. 'Ammar comments that it makes better sense to 
venerate wood than stone, as wood is inherently more "fruitful.''^ 158 ) Ibrahim 
al-Tabarani, while not contesting his interlocutor's claim that the Black Stone has 
powers of healing for those who go to Mecca, points out that the miracle-working 
powers of the cross are universal, not local. There is no need to go to Constantinople 
in order to invoke the power of the cross!< 159 ) 

The author of al-Gami' wuguh al-iman also mentions the Muslim practice of 
kissing the Stone/'^o) but goes on to speak of Islamic prayer in general: for its 
practice and orientation, it makes use of a building built by human beings. He 
mocks any stubborn refusal to admit the appropriateness of bowing toward man-made 

152. For a detailed discussion of the use of the Old Testament in the Arabic apologies for the 
crucifixion of Christ, see below, pp. 119-28. 

153. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 113/1/4-2/18, cf. PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 34* (#179). The 
Arabic recension in 27 questions adds mention of Moses' rod (Exodus 14:16; Numbers 20:11) and 
the flowering rod of Aaron (Number 17:8); CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 140-41 (#29). 

154. TARTAR, "Dialogue" (1977), 166/11-22. Similarly, see the Latin "Letter of Leo" (which may derive 
from a ninth or tenth century Arabic original; PG 107, 320C). Going back to the eight century, 
we find this argument in Chapter 10 of the (Syriac) Scholion of Theodore bar Koni (SCHER, Bar 
Konl (1910-12), II, 268/15-270/4). 

155. 4>l y>\_, u-y* <i-»^ ijjJl o^LJl jj* , IjJLT *L_:Vl 0' *»l -U* Jj> ~>Sy~Ji\ >.,-;-Cll ^» jl>*J 
<uJj j-j jjA>< — jj 4(!4^_-l iJjLj), ibid„ lines 11-12. 

156. Ibid., lines 21-22. 

157. The same point is made in the Latin "Letter of Leo," PG 107, 320D. 

158. Kitab al-burhan, Ch. 11, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 87V10-12. 

159. MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 506-11 (#523-29). 

160. Chapter 18, Question #8; BL or. 4950, f. 120 r /15-17. 


objects in the worship of God by asking: if prayer is directed to God, and God is in 
heaven, why do Muslims not then pray on top of their mosques?* 161 ) 

(vii) Arabic apologetic works which took the form of debates with Muslims 
often insisted upon the miracle-working powers of the cross. "al-Kindi," for example, 
reminds his "correspondent" of the way in which he, a Muslim, had invoked the cross 
for his safety during a series of adventures/ 162 ' And the power of the cross lies at the 
heart of the defence of its cult in the Ibrahim al-Tabarani debate/ 163 ) 

j./t'. 11 <ul tj ^ tt- J I ^Ip 4jI iUi j . ^<aj>*J V j Jlxj *V j <u-» , | I 
t^tjJLi jl (w-JLaJI ^j-^JL ^ J^JI ^jl j ./? ; II *Li jjj 

jjj ^.....■■oJI ^—-Lj t LiLp jbJI J->-JLj_j & T j^i ( jJ*L r iJI i jia_;j tO _^*JI 

No one should blame the Christians for their love for the cross, because from it 
innumerable and incalculable things have been made manifest to them. That is because 
it is the token of strength and the flag of victory and salvation from error. 

And if a Christian who believes in Christ and in the sign of the cross wished to 
drink mortal poison, or to exorcise demons by force, or to enter fire publicly, in the 
name of Christ and by the sign of the cross he would do so. 

The second paragraph, of course, serves to set up the trial by ordeal by which, 
according to the narrative, the monk Ibrahim is vindicated 

We recall that the ^era-recension of this passage and some recensions of the 
"Abu Qurrah" debate allude to the power of the cross to grant military victory/ 164 ) 
More typical of the ninth century, however, is the a/p/za-recension's description of the 
cross as "the flag of victory and salvation from error," or the statement of the author 
of al-Gdmi' that Christians prostrate themselves to the cross because of the victory 
won through it by Christ over Satan, who flees from it/ 165 ) These examples remind 
us that there is no sharp dividing line to be drawn between the Christian apologists' 
defences of the cult of the cross and their arguments for the historicity and salvific 
efficacy of the crucifixion, matters which shall occupy us in later chapters. 

161. Ibid. f. 120 v /10-17. 

162. TARTAR, "Dialogue" (1977), 166/23-167/5 [FT idem, Dialogue (1985), 240-41]. 

163. MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 504-7 (# 519-21). 

164. See above, p. 83. 

165. Text and translation below, pp. 161-62. 


4. A concluding comment 

In addition to seeing in the cross a symbol of the Byzantine empire and its 
ideology of divinely-granted invincibility, Muslims saw the cross as the object of what 
they could only judge to be an idolatrous cult. They considered this cult repugnant 
and reprehensible, and routinely made objections to it 

I use the word "routinely" advisedly here. To judge from the materials that 
have come down to us, the debate over Christian veneration of the cross is repetitive 
and lacks vitality. The charge of the Muslim controversialists is constant, while the 
responses of the Christian apologists cover precisely the same ground as their 
predecessors' responses to Jews a century and a half previously. For a more vital 
debate, it is necessary to look beyond the accusations and denials of cross-idolatry to 
the beliefs proclaimed and sustained by the symbol venerated by Christians. 

C. "You Shall Not Announce Your sirkF 

During the course of this century there has been a considerable amount of 
interest in early Islam's attitude to pictorial representation, in particular the evidence 
for an Islamic iconoclasm, driven in large part by the desire of students of Christian 
history and art to explain the causes of Byzantine iconoclasm. Did Islamic ideology 
number among these causes? The victorious iconophile Byzantines did indeed point 
to the Muslims as the inspiration of Byzantine iconclasm/ 166 ) but the near-consensus of 
contemporary scholars is that the charge cannot be sustained. Byzantine iconoclasm 
had its own Byzantine roots, but once it had been overthrown the victorious 
iconophiles found it convenient to "scapegoat" the Muslims, in particular the caliph 
Yazld b. 'Abd al-Malik.n") 

The dossier on Islam and iconoclasm has recently been reviewed by G.R.D. 
King in an article with the felicitous title "Islam, Iconoclasm, and the Declaration of 
Doctrine."( 168 > King upholds the current consensus, arguing that the evidence at our 
disposal indicates that far more disturbing to Muslims than the specifically 
representational character of Christian icons was the doctrinal content of those icons, 
as well as that of aniconic crosses and inscriptions. What moved Muslims to hostility 
against icons (including icons of the crucifixion) and crosses was not so much an 
ideology forbidding pictorial representation as the fact that these icons and crosses 
declared doctrines which Muslims found objectionable. 

166. For a recent disucssion of the relevant Greek (and Syriac) texts see GRIFFITH, "Bashir" (1990), 

167. See the articles mentioned in the next note. A notable dissent from the scholarly consensus is 
that of CRONE, "Iconoclasm" (1980). 

168. KING, "Islam" (1985). His first note gives an extensive bibliography, to which should now be 
added GRIFFITH, 'Tract" (1985) and idem, "Bashir" (1990). 


This is easily illustrated with respect to the cross. Earlier we took, notice of 
the edict of the "emir" '"Amru" b. Sa'd (probably 'Umayr b. Sa'd al-Ansari, Muslim 
governor of Hims) forbidding the public display of the cross/ 169 ) The Syriac 
chronicles that report this edict go on to describe his encounter with the Syrian 
Orthodox patriarch John ("of the sedras"), at the conclusion of which the governor 
ordered: "Translate your Gospel for me into the language of the Saracens (that is, 
Arabic). Only, you will not make any mention of Christ as God, or of baptism, or of 
the cross."< 170 > Clearly, what 'Umayr found offensive about the cross was its specific 
doctrinal content. For this pious Muslim (who was known as al-Zdhid, "the ascetic"), 
the cross was objectionable in the same way as were the mention of the divinity of 
Christ or of baptism. 

About half a century later, as we have already noted, the "Islamizing" caliph 
'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan replaced crosses on gold pieces with citations from Surat 
al-lhlds (112) - which could well be considered as the replacement of a declaration of 
Christian belief about Jesus with the Islamic counter-declaration: "God . . . has not 
begotten and has not been begotten." Alongside of this we may place a report 
concerning 'Abd al-Malik's brother 'Abd al-'Aziz, governor of Egypt. According to 
Life 41 (Isaac, patriarch 686-89) of "The History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria,"* 171 ' 
'Abd al-'Aziz acted as follows:* 172 ) 

At that time he commanded that all the crosses in the district of Egypt be 
destroyed, even the crosses of gold and silver, and thus the Christians of the land of 
Egypt were disturbed. Then he wrote a number of notices and placed them on the 
doors of the churches of Misr and lower Egypt, saying in them: "Muhammad is the 
great apostle of God, and Jesus also is an apostle of God. Verily God 'has not begotten 
and has not been begotten.'" 

Again, a hostility to crosses is coupled with concern to declare the Islamic 
"christology," summed up especially in Surat al-IhlasP 1 ^ 

169. Above, p. 67. 

170. From the "Chronicle" of Michael the Syrian, CHABOT, Michel (1899-1910), IV, 422 [FT II, 4321 A 
nearly identical text is found in "The Chronicle to the Year 1234," idem, 1234 (1917-1920), I, 263 
[LT I, 205-6]. Both histories are here dependent on the ninth-century "Ecclesiastical History" of 

171. The source for this part of the Arabic "History" is a Coptic history written by George the 
archdeacon, who was secretary to Simon I (patriarch 689-701). 

172. My translation of the Arabic text in EVETTS, History (1907-15), V, 25. 

173. It is worth mentioning that Surat al-lhlas also figures prominently in the inscriptions of 'Abd 
al-Malik's great architectural statement of Islam's triumph and final fulfillment of all previous 
revelation, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. See O. GRABAR, "Dome" (1959). 


A final example of Islamic objections to the cross as a declarer of 
objectionable doctrine will bring this chapter to its close. It is taken not from 
Christian historiography, but from Islamic law. The Kitab al-Umm of the 
imam al-Safi'I preserves what might be considered a "textbook, treaty" for use in 
treating with Christians and Jews in conquered towns. One set of conditions to which 
Christians are to agree runs as follows^ 174 ) 


You shall not display (tuzhiru) the cross in any of the Muslims' towns, 
nor proclaim your association of others with God (sirk). 

You shall not build a church or gathering place for your prayer, 
nor beat the naqus. 

You shall not announce (tuzhiru) to any of the Muslims 

your association (sirk.) of Jesus the son of Mary, or of others, with God. 

As the parallelisms in this passage make plain, what is objectionable in the Christians' 
public display of the cross is its role in proclaiming doctrines about Jesus that the 
Muslims can only see as sirk, the reprehensible association of a creature with the 
Creator.^ 175 ) The cross might be the communal symbol of a somewhat nervously 
regarded subject population; it might be the token of Byzantine victory; it might be 
suspected of being tantamount to an idol. What is regarded as particularly 
objectionable in this text of al-Safi'i, however, is the cross as a declaration of 
Christian teaching about Jesus, teaching that we might summarize thus: Jesus was 
crucified; his crucifixion was for the salvation of humankind; he is to be confessed as 
Lord and God. The following chapters will take up each of these points in turn, in 
order to examine the ways in which they were approached by Christian and Muslim 
controversialists during the first years of their encounter in Arabic. 

»je* J X> i^ij* Cfi 1/ f&J* '.J-rt^ X> 

174. SAFI'I, Umm (1973), IV, 197-99 (here 198). 

175. Cf. Luqman (31):13: JiaJ i] ji ("to associate others with God is a mighty wrong"). 

Chapter Three 


The Qur'anic passage al-Nisa' (4):153-61 is a polemic against the Jews, rebuked 
for their offences of deed (breaking the covenant, disbelieving God's signs, and killing 
the prophets wrongfully) and speech (saying that their hearts were hardened, speaking 
a great calumny against Mary, and claiming to have crucified Christ). The Qur'an's 
presentation of and response to this last claim is as follows: 

U_j «!*iil J ''fi-ij* JjI (^s— II LLJ Lill i^+ijij OoV) . . . 
L» cajl* ili ^jjiJ <ui I jaLi>-I ^j^j JUI o[j .pfJ 4-_j< jj^Jj ia L»j « ^bi 
.aJi ill Jj ( ^ a A) ct;.5j a^isi L»j ^jiaJI ^Ljl *fy o 
JJ <u Jr^jJ ^1 ^b£JI JaI Olj OM) . t^j* ill jlS'j 

Tjl^ "- ! i^JLp Oj£-j <L*LJL!I ^ . 4jj^ 


. . . (157) and their saying, 'We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of 
God' — yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was 
shown to them. Those who are at variance concerning him surely are in doubt 
regarding him; they have no knowledge of him, except the following of surmise; and 
they slew him not of a certainty — no indeed; (158) God raised him up to Him; God 
is All-mighty, All-wise. (159) There is not one of the People of the Book but will 
assuredly believe in him before his death, and on the Resurrection Day he will be a 
witness against them. 

On the face of it, the passage simply denies the death of Jesus on the cross: 
"they did not slay him, neither crucified him." The death of Christ on the cross, 
which Theodore Abu Qurrah described as the hermeneutical key to the whole of 
Christian scripture/ 2 ) simply did not happen. On the face of it then, the passage 

1. From ARBERRY, Koran (1964), 95. All English Quran translations in this study are taken or 
adapted from Arberry's. 

2. In "On the Necessity of Redemption," BACHA, Mayamir (1905), 89/15-17: ^ ^ . CJ* jii 

ttj* ^U»L ^y^\ <jl£J IJLa ^ ("If in the Old or the New Testament you hear [the words] 
'forgiveness' or 'mercy' or 'repentance,' know that none of that exists except through the cross of 
Christ and the shedding of his blood, for otherwise the Law would be void, and God a joke"). 



places a question-mark against the entire Christian understanding of the ways of God 
with human beings. The question-mark has been upheld by the great mass of Islamic 
tradition: the classical Islamic commentaries are practically unanimous in 
understanding the passage as a denial of the crucifixion of Jesus, and concentrate 
instead on the question of what or who was crucified in his place/ 3 ) 

There can be no wonder that, throughout the past fourteen centuries, Christians 
living in contact with Muslims have attempted to deal with this passage in one 
fashion or another, whether by outright rejection or by seeking possibilities for 
interpretation deeper than "the face of it." The patterns for many of these attempts 
were set in the Arabic-language discussions of the eighth and ninth centuries. In the 
present chapter, I begin with a presentation of the Islamic background to these 
discussions. This is followed by an examination of the ways in which the early 
arabophone Christian apologists strove to defend the historicity of the death of Jesus 
upon the cross. Finally, by considering one frequently-raised Islamic objection to 
Christian belief in the crucifixion, I hope to penetrate the Islamic logic from within 
which the denial of Jesus' crucifixion is fitting and, indeed, inevitable. 

I. al-Nisa' (4):157 and its Earliest Interpretation 

Before turning to Christian-Muslim discussion of the crucifixion of Jesus/'Isa b. 
Maryam, it is worth our while to consider the Islamic background to the controversy. 
What did the first generations of Muslims believe concerning the end or climax of 
the past career of al-Masih, and how did these beliefs develop? As is the case with 
all questions concerning Islamic dogma in the first Islamic century and a half, the 
sources at our disposal must be used with great caution. I do not, however, share the 
extreme scepticism towards the Islamic sources for the early period which is perhaps 
best exemplified by Patricia Crone's and Michael Cook's Hagarism,w an attempt to 
reconstruct the history of Islam's earliest development exclusively from non-Islamic 
sources. But if the Islamic sources for early Islamic ideological history are not to be 
ignored, the project of Crone and Cook has served to draw attention to the help 
non-Islamic sources may possibly give in the reconstruction of that history. In what 
follows, an attempt will be made to sketch the development of the interpretation of 
al-Nisa (4):157 by taking Christian as well as Islamic sources into account. 

3. See ROBINSON, Christ (1991), 127-41. 

4. CRONE/COOK, Hagarism (1977). For one critique of this book (among many) see WATT, 
"Reliability" (1983). 

My own approach to the Islamic sources is influenced by work such as that of Fuat Sezgin on 
the transmission of early hadit and tafslr (GAS I), of R.G. Khoury on the early qisas al-anbiya 
literature (e.g. R.G. KHOURY, Wahb (1972)), or of W. Madelung on early Islamic apocalyptic (e.g. 
MADELUNG, "Apocalyptic" (1976) and "Sufyanf (1976)). 


A. Does al-Nisa! (4):157 Deny the Death of Jesus on the Cross? 
1. Problems of interpretation 

Muslim and Christian discussions of al-Nisa' (4):157 have revealed that, far 
from being perfectly straightforward, the verse contains a number of exegetical 
difficulties. Its a_^JL» Uj L», ("they [the Jews] did not slay him, neither crucified 
him") would seem to be a clear denial of the crucifixion. But, as one contemporary 
Muslim scholar asks, "Does this verse mean that Jesus was killed and crucified, but at 
the hands of someone other than the Jews, or that he was not killed or crucified at 
a ll?"(5) The words that follow in the Qur'anic text have been variously interpreted by 
Christian and Muslim scholars alike: <u-i Is this to be interpreted "but he 

was made to appear like [him] in their eyes," where the na'ib al-fa'il^ is a person 
(either Jesus or someone else) and subbiha is understood in the sense of receiving a 
sibh or sabah, an "appearance" or "resemblance"?* 7 ' Or is it to be interpreted "but it 
was made dubious, problematic to them," where the na'ib al-fa'il is the event as a 
whole, and subbiha is understood in the sense of becoming the object of subhah, 
"uncertainty" or "doubt"?< 8 > 

The matter becomes all the more problematic when other Qur'anic verses are 
taken into account. Even if al-Nisa' (4):157 is understood to be a clear denial of the 
crucifixion of Jesus, Al 'Imran (3):55, al-Ma'idah (5):117, and Maryam (19):33 all seem 
to speak clearly of Jesus' death. The first of these -- which we shall encounter 
frequently as this chapter unfolds - reads in part: iLij^-* ^il <-^^- L»» t-oal Jli il 

1. . . lj jj& jjJUI ji^j iJ\ J j > perhaps to be translated "When God said, 
'Jesus, / will cause thee to die and will raise thee to me, and I will purify thee of 
those who believe not ..." 

These questions of interpretation lead to the questions, posed most insistently 
by Christian interpreters: Does the Qur'an really deny the death of Jesus on the 
cross? How did Muhammad understand the death of Jesus? As Raisanen comments, 
"That is undoubtedly the single most difficult problem of the Qur'anic 'christology.'"w 

2. Two Western Christian assessments 

The problems involved in dealing with these Qur'anic data may be indicated 
by examining the work of two contemporary Western Christian scholars, one who 

5. CHARFI, Radd (1986), 119. 

6. That is, the grammatical subject of a verb in the passive voice. 

7. Cf. the sense of ajIzZ, "to appear (mutually) similar," in cd-Baqarah (2):70. 

8. Cf. the sense of oLfjLi^*, "unclear, ambigous," in Al 'Imran (3):7. On all this, see RAISANEN, 
Jesusbild (1971), 65. 

9. Ibid. 


concludes that al-Nisa' (4):157 does deny the historicity of the crucifixion of Christ, 
and the other that it does not/ 10 ) 

(a) Raisanen: al-Nisa' (4): 157 denies Christ's death by crucifixion 

In his book Das koranische Jesusbild, the New Testament scholar Heikki 
Raisanen turns his exegetical skills to an analysis of al-Nisa' (4):157 in its Qur'anic 
context/ 11 ) He argues persuasively that al-Nisa' (4):157 does indeed deny the death of 
Jesus on the cross; the Jews had intended to crucify him, but God foiled their plans. 
Raisanen finds Qur'anic support for this interpretation in al-Ma'idah (5):110, £Ju& 
iLp J^jI^j ("when I restrained from thee [Jesus] the children of Israel") and Al 
'Imrdn (3):54, jjjJ'LJI j^J- *ttlj i&\ ("And they [the Jews] devised 

[against Jesus] and God devised [against them], and God is the best of devisers")/ 12 ) 
But what then of Al 'Imrdn (3):55, al-Ma'idah (5):117, and Mary am (19):33? Raisanen 
does not hesitate to conclude that the Qur'an also affirms Jesus' past death. He finds 

additional support for this conclusion in al-Ma'idah (5):75, afl jJ «JI L. 

J— jJI <Li C-L>- jj t J j— j ("The Messiah, son of Mary, is nothing but an apostle; 
apostles passed away before him"), which is to be interpreted in parallel with Al 
'Imrdn (3):144-45 (where the same is said of Muhammad)/ 13 ) "According to 
Muhammad, therefore, Jesus had to die, though not, to be sure, on the cross 
How, concretely, he imagined the course of events surrounding the crucifixion [is a 
question that] must remain open."( 14 ) Raisanen's conclusions are carefully-argued but 
disconcerting, only halfway in agreement with mainstream Islamic tradition (for 
which Christ's death is still in the future) while giving no comfort to Christians 
seeking a way to overcome the stumbling-block of the crucifixion in 
Christian-Muslim discussion. 

(b) J our dan: al-Nisa' (4): 157 does not deny Christ's death by crucifixion 

If Raisanen concurs with mainstream Islamic tradition in affirming that 
al-Nisa' (4):157 denies the death of Jesus on the cross, Francois Jourdan, in his recent 
doctoral dissertation "La mort du Messie en Croix," repeatedly asserts that the verse 

10. I have chosen to present these illustrative examples rather than to give a survey of modern 
positions on al-Nisa (4):157, which would take far too much space. There is today a vast 
literature on Christ in the Qur'an. WISMER, Jesus (1977) is an annotated bibliography of 
English and French works appearing up to 1976. This may be supplemented by the bibliographies 
appearing periodically in The Muslim World. 

11. RAISANEN, Jesusbild (1971), 65-76. 

12. Ibid., 71. 

13. Ibid., 71-73. 

14. Ibid., 73. Raisanen's views were broadly anticipated many years earlier by GEROCK, 
Christologie (1839), 56-64. 


does no such thing/ 15 ' Jourdan examines much the same Qur'anic evidence that 
Raisanen considers, but divides it between two sections of his study, one a discussion 
of the intent of the Qur'an in al-Nisa' (4):157,* 16 ' and the other a response to the 
question "Why has the Islamic majority tradition refused the historical fact of the 
death of the Messiah on the cross?"* 17 ' (i) In his examination of the intent of the 
Qur'an, Jourdan reads the passage from Surat al-Nisa' against the background of Al 
'Imran (3):55, al-Ma'idah (5):117, and Mar yam (19):33, and adds Al 'Imran (3):169, "V 
jjij jj ^+>j jllp *L»-t Jj til jj>\ .oil J---. ^ I jiJ jj-UI j-— >d ("Count not those who 
were killed in God's way as dead, but rather living with their Lord, by Him 
provided"). His conclusion is that the Qur'an does not intend to deny the fact of 
Christ's death by crucifixion, but rather to to rebuke "the Jewish pretension of being 
in control of the world's religious events."* 18 ' (ii) In his attempt to explain the refusal 
of the crucifixion by the "Islamic majority tradition," Jourdan develops arguments that 
derive not so much from extra-Qur'anic tradition as from the Qur'an itself: that God 
saves His apostles; that God is "the best of devisers," ready to resort to ruse in order 
to achieve His victory; that God's victory must be manifest on earth and in time/ 19 ' 

In accordance with the tendencies of the Massignon-influenced Islam-apostolate 
in which he stands/ 20 ' Jourdan holds that al-Nisa' (4):157 does not deny the death of 
Christ by crucifixion. He pays a price for this, however, in that he must - artificially 
in my view - sort his Qur'anic data between the Qur'an's own view on the one hand, 
and that of the Islamic majority tradition on the other. In effect, if unintentionally, 
Jourdan's discussion of the latter shows that the Qur'an's own apprehension of God 
and His dealings with the world permit the reading of al-Nisa' (4):157 as a denial of 
the crucifixion. Jourdan himself comes close to realizing this when he comments, "It 
may also be that Muhammad [toward the end of his life] had a presentiment of 
something he had not perceived at the beginning of his mission: that the crucifixion 
of 'Isa could not be squared with his own theological principles."* 21 ' But he hastens to 
add: "[W]e do not think that he went so far as to formulate it explicitly."* 22 ' 

15. JOURDAN, "Mort" (1988), 273, 299-300, 315-16, 380. 

16. Ibid., 259-73. 

17. Ibid., 382-90. Emphasis mine. 

18. Ibid., 271. Jourdan is clearly right in his emphasis that the basic intent of al-Nisa (4):157 is the 
deflation of the Jews' hubris. But the question remains: how, according to the Qur'an, did God 
accomplish this deflation? 

19. Ibid., 384-90. Jourdan's discussion of the Qur'anic witness to God's saving His apostles would be 
clearer had he noted the Qur'anic distinction between "apostle" and "prophet." See below, 
pp. 147-50. 

20. For the views of Massignon, see below, pp. 108-9. Members of his "circle" include Giulio 
Basetti-Sani, Denise Masson, and Youakim Moubarac (who directed Jourdan's dissertation). 
Basetti-Sani is well known for arguing that the Qur'an does not in fact deny the crucifixion of 
Christ; see his recently published book, BASETTI-SANI, Vangelo (1991), 103-22. 

21. JOURDAN, "Mort" (1988), 274. 

22. Ibid. 


3. An anticipated conclusion 

Does al-Nisd' (4):157 deny the death of Christ by crucifixion? The material of 
the remainder of this chapter is relevant to a response, but it will be clear from the 
tenor of the foregoing paragraphs that I incline to think that it does. Raisanen's 
arguments for understanding al-Nisd' (4):157 as denying the crucifixion are persuasive, 
and his suggestion that the Qur'an might affirm the fact of Christ's past death while at 
the same time denying his death by crucifixion is an important contribution to the 
discussion. Jourdan, on the other hand, saddles himself with an artificial distinction in 
his attempt to maintain that al-Nisd' (4):157 does not deny the crucifixion. As we 
have seen, he comes very close to demonstrating the opposite of what he intends. 

B. The Earliest Commentary on al-Nisd' (4):157 

The Qur'an commentary of Abu Ga'far al-Tabari contains a rich selection of 
comment on the phrase ^+1 j£J> ajJu» «jJLJ L.^ of al-Nisd' (4):157.< 23 > The 
isndds (chains of transmitters) with which he documents his sources^ 24 ' reveal that he 
has preserved material from the written commentaries of -- or the exegetical 
traditions associated with< 25 >- Mugahid b. Gabr (d. 722),< 26 > al-Qasim b. AbT Bazzah 
(d. ca. 733),( 27 > Qatadah b. Di'amah (d. 736),( 28 ' Isma'Tl b. 'Abd al-Rahman al-SuddT (d. 
745);( 2 *) 'Abd al-Malik b. 'Abd al-'Aziz Ibn Gurayg (d. 767).< 30 >, as well as from the 
prophetic histories of Wahb b. Munabbih (d. 728 or 732)< 31 ) and the universal history 
of Muhammad Ibn Ishaq (d. ca. 767).( 32 > The present section is a brief attempt to sort 
out this material along a logical and (to a certain extent) temporal trajectory, in order 

23. TABARI, Tafslr (1955-), IX, 367-76. 

24. For a study of the isndds in al-Tabari's Qur'an commentary, see HORST, "Uberlieferung" (1953). 

25. Fuat Sezgin's belief that Ibn 'Abbas, Mugahid, Qatadah, etc. were all authors of written works of 
tafslr (GAS I, 25-35) is to be modified in the light of the researches of G. Stauth and F. 
Leemhuis; see LEEMHUIS, "MS. 1075" (1981) and "Origins" (1988), where references to Stauth's 
unpublished dissertation may be found. Their studies of the exegetical traditions claiming the 
authority of Mugahid suggest that these and other ancient traditions of tafslr were not fixed in 
writing until the mid-eighth century A.D. by scholars such as Sibl b. 'Ubad (d. 766), 'Isa b. 
Maymun (d. ca. 786), Ma'mar b. Rasid (d. 770 or 771), and 'Abd al-Malik Ibn Gurayg (d. 767), to 
mention a few names found in the isndds in question. 

26. GAS I, 29. 

27. IBN HAGAR, Tahdlb (1907-10), VIII, 310 (#560). 

28. GAS I, 31-32. 

29. Ibid, 32-33. 

30. Ibid., 91. 

31. Ibid, 305-7; R.G. K.HOURY, Wahb (1972). 

32. GAS I, 288-90. The first part of Ibn Ishaq 's history, the Kildb al-mubtada' (which deals with the 
stories of the prophets), has been reconstructed in English translation: NEWBY, Prophet (1989). 


to show that there is indeed a history of interpretation of al-Nisa' (4):157, and that 
interpretations which later generations took to be "standard" were a considerable time 
in the developing. 

1. A trajectory of interpretation 

The exegetical reports recorded in al-Tabari's Tafsir are unanimous in denying 
the death of Jesus on the cross and in asserting that something or someone else was 
in fact crucified. But with regard to what or who was crucified, the reports fall along 
a logical and roughly chronological trajectory, from early "agnosticism" to 
"substitutionist" theories marked by ever-increasing detail and specificity.' 33 ) 

(a) In the well-known narrative of Christ's passion by Wahb b. Munabbih, as 
transmitted by his nephew 'Abd al-Samad b. Ma'qil/ 34 ) it is not even clear that that 
which was crucified in Christ's place was a person; the report has Christ refer to it as 
a say' ("thing"). Because of its importance, we shall return to this narrative in a 

(b) A bit further along the trajectory of interpretation, reports from the 
exegetical traditions associated with Mugahid state that "subbiha lahum means "they 
crucified a man other than Jesus, considering him [the man] to be him [Jesus]."( 35 > But 
the reports give no information at all as to the identity of the man. 

(c) Yet further along the trajectory, we have a number of reports which specify 
that the one crucified was a disciple who responded to Jesus' request for a volunteer 
to die in his place. The sparest of these reports are traced back to the authority of 
Qatadah,< 36 > of Mugahid's student al-Qasim b. Abl Bazzah/ 37 ' and of Ibn Gurayg.( 38 > 
Somewhat fuller narratives are attributed to Wahb b. Munabbih/ 39 ) or to al-SuddI.( 4 °) 

33. For earlier analyses of the development of the material as well as the "substitutionist" terminology 
used here, see AYOUB, "Christologie" (1980), 96-103, and note the comments of ROBINSON, 
Christ (1991), 140-41. 

34. The Arabic text is given below (pp. 295-96) as Appendix I to the dissertation. It is reproduced 
from TABARl, Tafsir (1955-), IX, 368-70 (#10780). The isnad is al-Mutanna / Ishaq / Isma'fl b. 
'Abd al-Karim / 'Abd al-Samad b. Ma'qil / Wahb. 'Abd al-Samad was considered a trustworthy 
transmitter of Wahb's works; see RG. KHOURY, Wahb (1972), 183. 

35. a Lj tLS ~* j^. I^JU*; TABARl, Tafsir (1955-), IX, 373-74 (#10787-89). The isnads 
are those listed by HORST, "Uberlieferung" (1953) as #7a, 8 and 5 respectively. 

36. TABARl, Tafsir (1955-), IX, 370 (#10781-82), with the isnads listed by HORST, "Uberlieferung" 
(1953) as #14 and 12 respectively. 

37. TABARl, Tafsir (1955-), IX, 371 (#10784), with a typically "Mugahidan" isnad: HORST, 
"Uberlieferung" (1953), #8, with al-Qasim in place of Mugahid. 

38. TABARl, Tafsir (1955-), IX, 373 (#10786), with the isnad listed by HORST, "Uberlieferung" (1953) 
as #5. 

39. TABARl, Tafsir (1955-), IX, 368 (#10779), with the isnad Ibn Humayd / Ya'qub al-Qummi / 
Harun b. 'Antarah / Wahb. 


In none of these reports, however, is any further information about the identity of the 
volunteer given. 

(d) Further along the trajectory still, some description of the volunteering disciple 
is given. In a hadith report dubiously attributed to 'Abd Allah Ibn 'Abbas, the 
volunteer is "a youth among the youngest of them in age."* 41 ' And finally, Ibn Ishaq 
provides the volunteer a name: Sergius.* 42 ' 

(e) At the end of the trajectory, "punishment substitutionist" theories appear. 
These hold that someone deserving of punishment - Judas Iscariot perhaps,* 43 ) or the 
man sent into the house to arrest Jesus ("Titayus" in al-RazT* 44 ' or "TTtanus" in 
al-Baydawi* 45 ' - was the one crucified.* 46 * 

2. The interpretation of Wahb* 47 > 

It may be worthwhile to pause and examine the narrative which stands at the 
beginning of the trajectory just described, transmitted from Wahb b. Munabbih (d. 728 
or 732), the great authority on the traditions of the Jews and the Christians.* 48 ) Even 
though Ibn Katir would later characterize the report as "a very strange sequence [of 
events],"* 49 ' al-Tabari regarded it highly, in his commentary stating his preference for 

40. Ibid., IX, 371 (#10783), with the isnad listed by HORST, "Uberlieferung" (1953) as #15. 

41. tL. ^o^i jj. 4»L5, TABARI, Tafsir (1954-57), XXVIII, 92 (on al-Gum'ah (61):14). The isnad is: 
Abu Mu'awiya / al-A'mas / al-Minhal / Sa'id b. Gubayr / Ibn 'Abbas. 

42. TABARI, Tafsir (1955-), IX, 372-73 (#10785), with the isnad listed by HORST, "Uberlieferung" 
(1953) as #17. 

43. See TABARI, Tafsir (1955-), IX, 373 (#10785, end), where this is mentioned as the view of "some 
of the Christians." See also note 57 below. That it was Judas who was crucified is claim of The 
Gospel of Barnabas; see KHOSROWSHAHI, Barnabas (1986), 263-68. 

44. RAZI, Tafsir (1933-?), XI, 100. 

45. BAYDAWl, Anwar (1925), 104. 

46. In "The Debate of the Patriarch John" (GCAL I, 478-80), an Egyptian Christian work of popular 
apologetics of uncertain date, the Muslim governor 'Abd al-'Aziz b. Marwan is made to say that it 
was a thief in the form of Jesus who was crucified; Paris ar. 215, f. 202 r . For the Coptic 
original, see EVELYN WHITE, Monasteries (1926), 171-75; the paleographical evidence points to a 
tenth-century date for the manuscript leaves he reassembles. 

47. The Arabic text of the hadith report to be discussed here is reproduced below, pp. 295-96. It has 
been translated many times, including: ELDER, "Crucifixion" (1923), 247-251 [ETJ; FERRE, "Vie" 
(1979), 22-23 [FT]; AYOUB, "Christology" (1980), 118-20 [annotated ET]; RIZZARDI, Fascino (1989), 
200-2 [IT]; ROBINSON, Christ (1991), 127-29 [ET[. 

48. On Wahb, see especially R.G. KHOURY, Wahb (1972) and "Citations" (1977). 

49. Tos- ^> JL-, IBN KATIR, Tafsir (1970-83), II, 431. 


it over other reports concerning Jesus' escape from death/ 50 ) and in his history 
reproducing it to the exclusion of other reports/ 51 ) 

In Wahb's recital of the end of Christ's ministry, the gospel narratives are 
closely followed: we read of Christ's fear of death, the Last Supper, the foot washing, 
Jesus' prayer and the inability of the disciples to keep vigil, Simon [PeterJ's denials, 
and the betrayal by one of the disciples for thirty pieces of silver/ 52 ) At this point in 
the narrative we encounter the obscure phrase wa-kana subbiha 'alayhim qabla 
dalika ("and he had been made to appear like [him] unto them (?) before that"). The 
narrative goes on to describe how "he" (Jesus? or that which had been made to appear 
like Jesus?) was arrested, bound, mocked, spat upon, and crowned with thorns/ 53 ) 


. . . until they brought him to the tree upon which they desired to crucify him. Then 
God raised him to Himself, and they crucified that which was made to appear [like 
him] in their eyes (ma subbiha lahum). 

After seven hours Jesus came to his mother and Mary Magdalene who were 
mourning over the corpse, and reassured them as follows/ 54 ) 


"Truly God has raised me, and nothing but good has befallen me. And that [i.e., the 
corpse] is a thing which was made to appear [like me] in their eyes (say' subbiha 

Several features of Wahb's narrative deserve comment: 
(a) The meaning of the phrase wa-kana subbiha 'alayhim qabla dalika, found 
just before the mention of the arrest, is not at all clear/ 55 ) and is certainly intrusive at 

50. TABARI, Tafsir (1955-), IX, 374-76, where al-Tabari examines the mass of reports that he has 
reproduced and decides that one or the other of the two reports attributed to Wahb is most 
probably correct. 

51. Idem, Tarih (1960-69), I, 601-2. 

52. See below, pp. 295-96 (#1-6). 

53. See below, p. 296 (#7). 

54. Ibid. (#8). 

55. ELDER ("Crucifixion" (1923), 248) translates thus: "And he had been confused in appearance to 
them before this," which is presumably why they needed Judas to identify him. On this reading, 
it is clearly Christ who is the object of the arrest and ill-treatment. 


this point. It may represent an early addition to Wahb's original report by a 
hadith-reporter offended by Jesus' undergoing the shame of being mocked, spat upon, 
and crowned with thorns, even if he was then saved from crucifixion/ 56 ' That this 
hadith report was tampered with over time is clear from the recension of al-Ta'labl, 
which explicitly states that it was Judas who was crucified in Jesus' place/ 57 ) an 
impossibility in the original report which reports Judas' suicide by hanging/ 58 ) 

(b) This narrative, while making it very clear that Jesus was not crucified, goes 
no further than the Qur'an itself in explaining what in that case actually did happen. 
Elder's comment is apt/ 59 > 

All that we learn from this tradition which appears to be the most reliable is that it 
happened as it happened. The Koranic language is ambiguous, so traditions are brought 
in to explain and clarify its meaning. The tradition that seems most trustworthy only 
repeats the Koranic language of the verse. We have been searching for truth in a 
circle and we end where we began. 

(c) Indeed, as mentioned above, the obscurity of the hadith report extends to the 
point that it is not even clear that what is crucified is a person. That which is 
crucified is described as ma (not man}) subbiha lahum ("that which" - and not "he 
who" - "was made to appear like [him] in their eyes"), and later as say' subbiha lahum 
("a thing that was made to appear like [him] in their eyes"). 

(d) This very obscurity is a strong argument for the antiquity of the report and 
the correctness of its attribution to Wahb b. Munabbih; in all probability it figured in 
his Kitab al-mubtada' wa-qisas al-anbiya 7 6 °) The report fits well what we know of 
Wahb's work. Here, as elsewhere, he takes up and "Islamicizes" biblical materials in 
such a way that they might find a place in the imagination of the Islamic 
community. (61) 

The importance of Wahb's "passion narrative" is that, towards the beginning of 
the eighth century A.D., a fair degree of "agnosticism" about the details of Christ's 

56. AYOUB ("Christology" (1980), 119) believes the phrase to be an addition. 

57. At the point of the crucifixion, al-Ta'labi's recension reads: c . 1U* t » j*LaJ <..:.>Jl *j I U.l.» 

^ 4J* j y. h_. tolSL. tjJUai ("And when they brought him to the tree to crucify him, the 

earth became dark, God sent his angels to bar the way between them and Jesus, and He cast the 
resemblance of Jesus upon the one who pointed him out to them, whose name was Judas. And 
they crucified him in his place, assuming him to be Jesus."); TA'LABI, Qisas (1954), 401. 

58. See below, p. 296 (#9). 

59. ELDER, "Crucifixion" (1923), 251. Emphasis his. 

60. On the title of this book, see R.G. KHOURY, Wahb (1972), 204-205. For evidence that Wahb was 
indeed a writer of such a book, and a description of its probable contents, see ibid., 222-46. 

61. See idem, "Citations" (1977), 271: "Wahb was less of a translator than an arranger of old material 
that must have existed in one form or another before him .... If he did not translate the Bible 
in whole or in part ... he was undoubtedly one of the first persons responsible for its 
popularization and islamicization." 


escape from crucifixion was a possibility for Muslim transmitters of hadlt and tafsir. 
And if the major "trajectory" of interpretation in the course of the eighth century 
tended towards ever greater specificity in the identification of a person said to have 
died in Christ's place, Wahb's "passion narrative," with its refusal to go beyond the 
statements of the Bible and the Qur'an, continued for a long time to command 
respect, as al-Tabari's use of it clearly shows. 

3. The development of substitutionist exegesis 

(a) A gradual process 

It would be a mistake to insist that Wahb's "agnosticism" concerning the details 
of Christ's escape from death was satisfactory to all of his contemporaries. After all, 
Wahb's older contemporary Mugahid is held to have taught that the Qur'an's subbiha 
lahum means that another man died in Jesus' place. Furthermore, Wahb himself is 
named as the authority' 62 ' for a curious hadith report that gives a "voluntary 
substitutionist" explanation of Jesus' escape from crucifixion.' 63 ) What I would suggest 
is that the "agnosticism" of Wahb's "passion narrative" helps us to see that 
substitutionist theories developed gradually and were not necessarily standard Islamic 
teaching in the early decades of the eighth Christian century. 

To advance this suggestion seriously, it is first necessary to examine a hadith 
report preserved in al-Tabari's comment on al-Gum'ah (61):14, where a "voluntary 
substitutionist" interpretation of the subbiha lahum is attributed to the sahdbl 
("Associate" of Muhammad) 'Abd Allah Ibn 'Abbas (d. 687),' 64 ) the "father of Qur'an 
interpretation."' 65 ) If Ibn 'Abbas did indeed teach a detailed substitutionist 
interpretation of the subbiha lahum, the correspondence between logical and temporal 
progression in the trajectory we have studied would collapse. The attribution of the 
report to Ibn 'Abbas can, however, be questioned. The isnad (Abu Mu'awiyah / 
al-A'mas / al-Minhal / Sa'Id b. Gubayr / Ibn 'Abbas) is not one of the normal channels 
by which the exegetical tradition of Ibn 'Abbas -- including that concerning Surat 
al-Gum'ah - reached al-Tabari.< 66 > Furthermore, if Ibn 'Abbas had taught a detailed 

62. For the isnad, see above, p. 103, note 39. Questions may be raised about the reliability of the 
attribution. IBN HAGAR (Tahdib (1907-10), XI, 9-10 (#19)) does not mention Harun b. 'Antarah as 
a transmitter of Wahb's material. (On Harun, see next page.) 

63. According to this report, all seventeen [sic] disciples who were in the house with Jesus were made 
to appear like him, and one volunteered to go out, identify himself as Jesus and be crucified in 
his place. TABARI, Tafsir (1955-), IX, 368 (#10779) [ET ELDER, "Crucifixion" (1923), 246-47, or 
ROBINSON, Christ (1991), 127-28]. 

64. TABARI, Tafsir (1954-57), XXVIII, 92. 

65. GAS I, 25. 

66. For a great amount of detail on the transmission of the Ibn 'Abbas material to al-Tabari, see 
HORST, "Uberlieferung" (1953), 293-95, 303, 307, and GOLDFELD, "Tafsir" (1981). 


"voluntary substitutionist" interpretation of the subbiha lahum we would have 
expected to find this reproduced in the exegetical material of the next generation of 

(b) A Kufan connection? 

If we ask about the provenance of the substitutionist hadith report attributed 
to Ibn 'Abbas, when we turn our attention to the other names listed in the isndd we 
quickly discover that the place to which we must look for the report's circulation - 
and probable origin - is Kufah. al-A'mas (d. 765) was a Kufan/ 67 ) as was his (alleged) 
source al-Minhal b. 'Amr,( 68 > and his (alleged) source Sa'id b. Gubayr (d. 714)/ 69 ' In all 
probability we are dealing with a Kufan hadith report the isndd of which was "raised" 
to the sahabi Ibn 'Abbas, probably at some time during or shortly after the Abbasid 
assumption of power/ 70 ) 

The hadith report attributed to Ibn 'Abbas is not the only one for which we 
may infer a connection with Kufah in the early or mid-eighth century. When we 
look to the other developed substitutionist reports listed above^ 7 " we note several 
instances of this connection. The substitutionist hadith report attributed to Wahb was 
transmitted by Harun b. 'Antarah (d. 759), from Kufah/ 72 ) al-Suddi (d. 745) lived and 
worked in Kufah/ 73 ' And finally, Ibn Ishaq (d. 767) spent time in Kufah before 
fetching up in Baghdad.^ 74 ) From all this, we may plausibly conclude that the 
substitutionist exegesis of al-Nisd' (4):157 was well known in Kufah in the early or 
mid-eighth century A.D. 

(c) Massignon on the "docetic" interpretation of al-Nisa' (4):157 

The connection between the substitutionist exegesis of al-Nisa' (4):157 and 
Kufah in the mid-eighth century, inferred from an analysis of isnads in al-Tabari's 
Tafsir, connects up in a striking manner with an argument made by Louis Massignon 
in an article of 1932.< 75 ) Massignon was calling attention to an ancient but minority 
strain of Muslim thinking for which al-Nisa' (4):157 does not deny the physical death 
of Christ by crucifixion. There is, for example, the stirring image of al-Hallag 

67. This was noted by ROBINSON, Christ (1991), 140-41. 

68. IBN HAGAR, Tahdib (1907-10), X, 319-21 (#555). Ibn Hagar does not give the date of al-Minhal's 

69. GAS I, 28-29. 

70. See LEEMHUIS, "Origins" (1988), 24-25. 

71. See pp. 103-4. 

72. IBN HAGAR, Tahdib (1907-10), XI, 9-10 (#19). 

73. GAS I, 32-33. 

74. See HODGSON, Venture (1974), 254-55, who mentions that Ibn Ishaq probably had had pro-'Alid 
political inclinations. 

75. MASSIGNON, "Christ" (1932), 533-36. 


(d. 922) quoting this very verse while himself being crucified/ 76 ' the soul divinized 
through its union with God - as in the case of Jesus or al-Hallag - does not perish 
even when the body is killed.* 77 ) A number of Ismail! writings explicitly state that 
al-Nisd' (4):157 does not deny the death of Christ on the cross/ 78 ) And Fahr al-DIn 
al-Razi (d. 1209) wrote that it was the opinion of "the majority of the scholars" 
(though not his own) that the verse means that while Jesus' body was killed, his soul 
-- Jesus fi l-haqiqah, "in truth" - was not/ 79 ) Massignon gives the impression, at least, 
that he believes that such interpretations reflect the correct and original intent of the 
verse/ 80 ) 

But if the Qur'an itself does not deny the crucifixion of Christ (in Massignon's 
view), whence comes the traditional Islamic interpretation of al-Nisa' (4):157? 
Massignon looked for the origins of what he termed the "docetic"* 81 ) interpretation of 
al-Nisa' (4):157 - i.e. the non-crucifixion of Christ and the death of a substitute - in 
the speculation of radical Shi'ite or gulat groups about the cruel deaths of some of the 
legitimate imams: "God not having been able to let them 'die before their time,' and 
the particle of the divine (la parcelle divine) which dwelled in them having 
necessarily been taken out of reach of their assassins, there remained nothing of them 
but an apparent form (sibti), a scrap of humanity (loque humaine) which God caused a 
demon or a damned soul to assume during the death agonies."* 82 ) Massignon suggests 
that it was only about the year 150 H./767 that "docetic exegesis" modelled on these 
radical Shi'ite understandings of the deaths of the imams "infiltrated" Sunnite 
commentary on al-Nisa' (4):157/ 83 ) 

76. Reported by al-Gazah in his Kitab fadaih al-Batiniyyah wa fada'il, ed. GOLDZIHER, Streitschrift 
(1916), 30. See also the poem attributed by Attar (d. 1220) to the crucified al-Hallag, FT 
MASSIGNON, (Euvre (1941-46), 135-38, or HAYEK, Christ (1959), 233-36. 

77. MASSIGNON, "Christ" (1932), 534. 

78. On these see below, p. 144. 

79. Cited in MASSIGNON, Recueil (1929), 193 [FT HAYEK, Christ (1959), 230]. 

80. MASSIGNON, "Christ" (1932), 535. 

81. The use of "docetic" to refer to Islamic interpretations of al-Nisa (4):157 has been criticized by 
AYOUB, "Christology" (1980), 95-96. His objection had been anticipated long before by GEROCK, 
Christologie (1839), 58. 

82. Ibid., 535. Massignon refers to: (i) 'Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani's description of the doctrines of the 
Hattabiyyah. One of its subgroups, the Bazigiyyah, are described as believing that Ga'far al-Sadiq 
was the invisible God whose visible form (hadihi l-surah) was - changing Guam's active voice to a 
passive - subbiha lahum (GILAnI, Gunyah (1928), I, 99-100). (ii) The report of al-Bagdadi 
concerning the Muhammadiyyah, who believed that Muhammad "Pure Soul" escaped death when a 
devil in his image died in his place (BAGDADI, Farq (n.d.), 37-38). (iii) Similar speculations 
concerning Husayn, according to al-Malati in his Kitab al-tanbih wa-l-radd 'aid ahl al-ahwa 

83. MASSIGNON, "Christ" (1932), 535, repeated in (for example) BASETTI-SANI, Corano (1972), or 
BORRMANS, "Mystery" (1976), 12-13. 


(d) Gathering up the threads 

Massignon was in all probability mistaken if he believed that he had identified 
the source of the traditional interpretation of al-Nisa (4):157 as a denial of the 
crucifixion of Christ, but his analysis is of great interest all the same. Its importance 
at once becomes clear when one remembers that in the early to mid-eighth century it 
was Kufah that was the center of the activities of the gulat groups and the hotbed of 
their speculation -- speculation about the deaths of their imams as well as speculation 
about Jesus, who for many of the gulat groups was expected to play a prominent role 
in the approaching eschatological dramaJ 84 ' Taking all these bits and pieces of 
evidence together, I suggest that: 

(i) on the basis of the isnads given by al-Tabari, substitutionist exegesis of 
al-Nisa' (4):157 circulated and developed in Kufah towards the middle of the eighth 
Christian century; 

(ii) this exegesis influenced and/or was influenced by the speculations of 
gulat groups about the deaths of the legitimate imams;( 85 ) 

(iii) attempts were made to gain more general acceptance for the exegesis after 
the accession of the Abbasids, as is suggested by what we have assumed to be the 
"raising" of the hadith report discussed above to Ibn 'Abbas. The Islamic exegetical 
tradition bears witness to the fact that these attempts were ultimately successful. 

C. The Earliest Christian Evidence 

We now turn to two Christian texts from the first Islamic century and a half, 
the first of which has not been considered before in connection with the development 
of Islamic understandings of the end of Jesus' past ministry. 

84. See KHALIDI, "Role" (1990), and, for the Mansuriyyah, TURNER, "Abu Mansur" (1977), 72. It may 
well be that speculation about Jesus' eschatological role was a factor spurring and shaping that 
about the circumstances surrounding his being raised alive to God. 

85. See ROBINSON, Christ (1991), 141. Robinson points out another bit of evidence for the 
substitutionist exegesis - Kufah - gu/af/Shi'ite connection: the presence of a recension of the 
substitutionist report attributed to Ibn 'Abbas in the Tafslr of the Shi'ite commentator al-Qummi 
(d. 919), where it is attributed to Abu Ga'far Muhammad al-Baqir, the fifth Imam. See 
ROBINSON, Christ (1991), 171, 177. 


1. 'The Vision of Shenute" 

"The Vision of Shenute" is a little historical apocalypse* 86 ) imbedded in the 
"Arabic life of Shenute," a compilation of earlier Coptic materials.* 87 ) In it, Christ 
appears to Shenute and "predicts" the coming of the Persians, followed by the Arabs, 
with clear references to Heraclius' governor-patriarch Cyrus (who according to the 
text is al-Daggdl, the Antichrist) and to the flight and return of the Coptic patriarch 
Benjamin. Then we read:* 88 ) 

.lo Jij 4jL*jJt j>-\ ^ ji jj *S\ ^JLpI JJLa jl^ lili .^JLij^j 


And after that, the Sons of Ishmael and the Sons of Esau will rise up and expel the 
Christians. The remainder of them will strive to dominate and rule all of the land. 
They will build the temple which is in Jerusalem. When this takes place, know that 
the end of time has approached and drawn nigh. 

The reference to the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple can only refer to the 
construction of the Dome of the Rock under the Umayyad caliph 'Abd al-Malik b. 
Marwan.* 89 ) Now, construction of the Dome is normally dated to 691-92, although it 
may have begun as early as 688-89.* 90 ) Since the rebuilding of the Jerusalem "temple" 
is the last of the historical details to be woven into the apocalypse, we may expect 
that the work was written at about this time or shortly afterwards. 

Are there other indications that might help us to fix a date? Amelineau 
believed that the phrase "the remainder of them shall strive to dominate and rule all 
the land" refers to the second fitnah (civil war), and that the text should therefore be 
dated before its end with the death of 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr (in 692).< 91 ) This may 
be a case of overinterpreting the text, but another argument for a date from the early 
690's is that the "Vision" does not mention 'Abd al-Malik's coinage reform of 695, 
viewed in apocalyptic terms in Egyptian Christian works such as the "Apocalypse of 

86. For a description of the genre "historical apocalypse" and an enlightening discussion of their use 
as historical sources, see ALEXANDER, "Apocalypses" (1968). 

87. GCAL I, 463. Ed. AMELINEAU, Monuments (1888), 289-478; "The Vision of Shenute" is found at 
pp. 338-46 [FT and comment lii-lviiil The manuscript from which the work is transcribed is 
described at p. xlviii. 

88. Copied without correction from AMELINEAU, Monuments (1888), 341. 

89. On the Christian description of the building of the Dome of the Rock as "rebuilding the Temple," 
see above, pp. 69. 

90. O. GRABAR, "Dome" (1959), 34. 

91. AMELINEAU, Monuments (1888), lvii-lviii. 


(pseudo) Athanasius"< 92 ) or the "Letter of (pseudo-) Pisentius."( 93 ) While arguments 
from silence are dangerous, here it seems that a good case can be made for dating the 
text to 692, plus or minus a few years. 

The importance of all this is that shortly after the mention of the rebuilding of 
the temple in Jerusalem, the text has Christ describe the Banu Isma'Tl as "those who 
deny my sufferings which I accepted upon the cross"!< 94 > We therefore have before us 
the Arabic translation of a Coptic witness, very likely from before the end of the 
seventh century, to the effect that the Muslims with whom the Egyptian Christian 
community came into contact denied Jesus' suffering on the cross. 

2. John of Damascus (d. ca. 750): "Concerning Heresies," Ch. 100/101< 9S > 

In the year 743 or shortly thereafter^ 96 ) Saint John of Damascus (Yuhanna b. 
Sargun b. Mansur) wrote his great compilation and systematization of the patristic 
theological heritage, the nrryri Tvcooeax; ("Fount of Knowledge"), the second part of 
which, riepi Aipeoecov ("Concerning Heresies") has as its Chapter 100 or 101 a 
treatment of Islam/ 97 ) In it, the Islamic conception of the end of Christ's first-century 
ministry is described as follows/ 98 ) 

He [Muhammad in the Qur'an] says . . . that the Jews, having themselves transgressed 
the Law, wanted to crucify him; and having arrested him they crucified his shadow 
(eoxaupwaav tt)v okuxv auxou), but Christ himself was not crucified (they say), nor 
did he die, for God took him unto Himself in heaven, because He loved him. 

92. See above, p. 79. 

Martinez makes a good argument that the "Apocalypse" is to be dated to "the decade preceding 
724" (MARTINEZ, Apocalyptic (1985), 267). He describes it and "The Vision of Shenute" as 
"roughly contemporary," although he notes that the "Apocalypse" is more developed than the 
"Vision" in the description of the Muslims' oppressive policies (ibid.). These observations are not 
inconsistent with the present proposal to date the "Vision" to the early 690's. 

93. PERIER, "Pisuntios" (1914), 306 [FT 318]. 

94. >--UJl Jj> 1+.-J.J tfjtfl o }j ^i JiiJl AMELINEAU, Monuments (1888), 341. 

95. Ed. KOTTER, Liber (1981), 60-67, and see SAHAS, Heresy (1972) for a study and ET. 

96. For the date, see SAHAS, Heresy (1972), 54. 

97. It must be pointed out that the authenticity of this chapter has been challenged, notably by 
ABEL ("Chapitre CI" (1963)), but his arguments have been met in detail by A.-T. KHOURY 
(Theologiens (1969), 49-55) and SAHAS (Heresy (1972), 58-66), partly on the basis of the 
text-critical work of KOTTER (Uberlieferung (1959), 196-214). As is often the case with his work 
in the history of Muslim-Christian controversy, Abel was led astray by a rigid mental construct of 
its historical development which tended to distort rather than to serve the evidence. Kotter has 
now provided a critical edition of the rTepi Aipeoeuv, and decides in favor of the inclusion of 
the chapter on Islam; KOTTER, Liber (1981), 7. 

98. Ibid., 61 (lines 18, 22-25). 


There are two points to be made about this passage. The first is that St. John 
of Damascus, familiar with the Umayyad court and undoubtedly having at least some 
degree of competence in Arabic, knew that the Muslims with whom he came into 
contact understood al-Nisa' (4):157 as denying the death of Jesus upon the cross. The 
second point is that there is no hint here of John's familiarity with a story about the 
crucifixion of a substitute; that which is crucified is Christ's OKict, his "shade" or 
"shadow." This is an odd choice of words, but may perhaps be explained by a simple 
confusion between Arabic sabah ("resemblance") and sabah ("shade" in the sense of a 
ghost or spirit, accurately rendered by oKiot). If this is correct, the interpretation of 
al-Nisa' (4):157 with which John was familiar was no more specific than salabu 
sabahahu, "they crucified his 'resemblance,'" which John rendered eotaupcooav it]v 
OKiav autou. There is no indication in the text that John was aware of speculation as 
to what or who the crucified sabah might have been. 

D. A Summary 

Gathering together what has been said in this chapter thus far, I hazard the 
following summary: 

1. Surat al-Nisa' (4):157 does indeed deny that Jesus died on the cross, and it was 
so understood by Muslims as far back as we can trace (e.g. in 'The Vision of Shenute" 
of the 690s, and in all of al-Tabari's sources). 

2. The Qur'an and its very earliest commentary - as represented by the hadith 
report of Wahb b. Munabbih studied above - do not provide any clear picture of 
what actually did happen at the end of Jesus' ministry. In Wahb's report, what was 
crucified in Jesus' place is defined no more closely than ma subbiha lahum or say' 
subbiha lahum. 

3. This "agnosticism" in the interpretation of al-Nisa' (4):157 may long have been 
common among Muslims, at least those of particular political and ideological "zones." 
It is probably reflected, for example, in the report (from about the year 743) of John 
of Damascus. In contact with Muslims at the Umayyad center, the Damascene 
appears to be unfamiliar with any concrete substitutionist understanding of Jesus' 
escape from crucifixion, stating instead that Muslims claim that the Jews crucified 
Jesus' "shadow," perhaps a mistranslation of sabah. 

4. While simple substitutionist theories to the effect that a person was crucified 
in Jesus' place were advanced early on, for example by Mugahid, the evidence 
suggests that such theories came to enjoy special popularity in Kufah in the early and 
mid-eighth century. There they may have fit in well with other speculations 
concerning Jesus among the gulat groups, and may have been elaborated in tandem 
with substitutionist theories concerning the deaths of their imams. 

5. As is well known, the substitutionist understanding of al-Nisa' (4):157 
eventually became the standard "Sunnite" interpretation of the text, though not before 
the accession of the Abbasids. This understanding answered the need for a concrete 
interpretation of the puzzles surrounding the end of Jesus' ministry, and came to fit 


into a politically acceptable complex of interpretation of Jesus' rescue from 
crucifixion, his ascension, and his eschatological role/") 

6. As we approach texts from the Arabic Christian-Muslim discussions of the 
later eighth and ninth centuries, we are not justified in simply assuming that the 
Muslims writing or addressed by or envisaged in these texts hold substitutionist views. 
These Muslims will be nearly unanimous in believing that Jesus did not die on the 
cross, but they may well be "agnostic" as to precisely how God rescued His messenger. 

II. Arabic Christian Defences of the Historicity of the Crucifixion 

The previous sections have made it clear that, as far back as we can trace, 
Muslims believed that al-Nisd' (4):157 denied the historicity of Christ's crucifixion, and 
that Christians became aware of this at an early date. How did they respond? 

In the present chapter we shall examine only those Christian apologetic 
arguments which directly make a case for the historicity of the crucifixion of Christ. 
In later chapters a variety of kinds of indirect evidence for truth of Christian claims 
about the cross will be encountered. The apologetic role of miracles, not least those 
miracles done in the name of the Crucified or with the sign of the cross, has already 
been mentioned and will be examined again later/ 100 ' We shall also encounter what 
might be called arguments of salvific necessity and of intra- systemic coherence: the 
centrality and irreplaceability of the crucifixion of Christ to the entire Christian 
biblical/dogmatic understanding of reality, within which may be found salvation, the 
denial of which leads to intolerable consequences. While such arguments need not be 
complex -- a claim to intra-systemic coherence lies in the background every time a 
Christian advances a biblical proof-text to make an apologetic point - they can also 
be worked out with great sophistication, as we shall see below/ 101 ) 

The direct arguments for the historicity of Christ's crucifixion employed by 
the Christian apologists studied here are for the most part drawn from Muslims' and 
the Christians' scriptures: on the one hand the Qur'an, and on the other the Bible, 
especially the Old Testament. The most important of these arguments are already to 
be found in the debate of the Nestorian catholicos Timothy with the Abbasid caliph 
al-Mahdi, held in or about the year 781. Accordingly, in the following paragraphs we 

99. Over against the gulat groups and their apocalyptic Jesus, KHALIDI ("Role" (1994)) refers to the 
"legitimating Establishment, where Jesus eventually becomes an irrelevant and circumscribed 
apocalyptic figure in canonical Hadlth." 

100. See above, pp. 82-83, 92, and below, pp. 277-80. 

101. See p. 226. 


shall follow Timothy's train of thought, allowing his debate to provide us an outline 
into which other material may be incorporated. 

A. Al 'Imrdn (3)55 and the Qur'anic Sequence Death - Resurrection - Ascension 

1. Timothy's debate, I< 02 > 

The part of the debate between al-Mahdl and Timothy that concerns the 
historicity of the crucifixion of Christ begins, not surprisingly, with the caliph's 
quoting al-Nisa' (4):157: "they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but [God] 
made a likeness for them."( 103 ) Timothy responded to the caliph's Qur'an citation by 
citing two other Qur'anic verses: Maryam (19):33, Oj-*t OjJj rjj ^JLp ^LJIj 
L*- <L-*L\ ^fjj ("Peace be upon me, the day I was born, and the day I die, and the 
day I am raised up alive!") and Al 'Imran (3):55, iloljj ^\ ^ JL» il 

^Jj ("When God said, 'Jesus, I will cause thee to die (?) and will raise thee to me'"). 
The caliph immediately responded that Jesus had not yet died, but would die in the 
future.^oi) To this, Timothy responded something as follows^ 105 ) 

102. The passage under consideration here is found in MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 114/1/4-20 (Syriac 
text) [ET 40-41]. The Arabic versions are found at PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 35*-36* 
(#186-90), and CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 141 (#30). 

103. The Syriac text (MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 114/1/5-6) gives CTl\ 9 Q-*J£> & in 
place of the Quran's ^+1 it is equivalent to t+ <~z., "He [God] likened for them a 
likeness." There is no hint as to what the likeness might be. 

104. This response reflects the picture of Christ's career that by the end of the eighth century had 
become standard in "establishment" circles: Jesus, having been preserved from crucifixion, was 
being kept alive by God, and one day would return to earth to fight and kill the Antichrist, live 
for a certain period of time, and then finally die. For a presentation and discussion of the 
relevant hadith reports about Jesus' eschatological role see IBN KATIR, Tafslr (1970-83), III, 15-23. 
For a recent Western study, see ROBINSON, Christ (1991), 78-105, especially the summary at 104-5. 

105. I reproduce here Timothy's response according to the Arabic recension of the debate in 
twenty-seven questions, CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 141 (#30). The Syriac text is found in 
MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 114/1/14-29 (closely followed by the longer Arabic recension, 
PUTMAN/SAMIR, Apologie (1975), 36* (#190)). 

For Timothy's debate I normally follow the Syriac text, which is the oldest witness. Here, 
however, there is some confusion in the Syriac, the most obvious example of which is the 
mistranslation of the verb ("was raised," as in Maryam (19):33) as 59 hs^A. \ ("was sent"). 

The redactor of the Arabic recension in twenty-seven questions skillfully eliminated confusing 
elements in the Syriac text and reconstructed the argument according to the logic of the passage 
as a whole. 



And likewise he has not yet ascended into heaven, and has not yet been raised up 
alive, but will ascend and be raised later! But you have it that he ascended into 
heaven alive. He did not ascend until he died and was raised, as we saw earlier. So if 
he ascended, then he had previously died ... . 

To understand the argument, we must keep the order of the verbs in Maryam (19):33 
and Al 'Imran (3):55 firmly in mind: amutu, ub'atu; mutawaffika, rafi'uka. Timothy 
(as presented by the perceptive Arabic redactor) assumes that the order of the verbs 
in the Qur'anic text reflects the order of their occurrence, so that taken together the 
two verses establish the logical and temporal sequence: death, resurrection, ascension. 
It is then on this Qur'anic basis that it is argued that any doubts about the past 
occurrence of the first member of the sequence (i.e., Jesus' death) must also reflect 
upon the later members. Therefore, if Jesus has not yet died but will die in the 
future, then "he has not yet ascended into heaven, and has not yet been raised up 
alive, but will ascend and be raised later!" Conversely, affirmation of the historicity 
of the final member of the sequence (i.e., Jesus' ascension) must also imply 
affirmation of the historicity of the previous members: "But you have it that he 
ascended into heaven alive .... [I]f he ascended, then he had previously died." 

2. Al 'Imran (3):55 between Christian apology and Islamic commentary 

That Al 'Imran (3):55 very early became a weapon in the Christian apologetic 
arsenal is shown by its citation not only by Timothy* 1 "*) Du t also in the ancient 
apologetic treatise Fl tatllt Allah al-wahid, where it serves as a witness to Christ's 
ascension.* 1 *") From the early ninth century we have the claim of "The 
Apocalypse/Legend of Bahlra" that the original, Christian, intent of Al 'Imran (3):55 
was as a witness to Christ's death and resurrection/ 1 08 > And in the Risdlat al-Kindi 
the entire passage Al 'Imran (3):55-58 is cited without commentary as an 
unproblematic witness to the Christian understanding of Christ's career.* 109 ) 

106. And subsequently in the beta recension of the Ibrahim al-Tabarani debate. See, for example, 
Paris ar. 215, f. 62 r , or VOLLERS, "Religionsgesprach" (1908), 59. 

107. Sinai ar. 154, ff. 112 r - v (GIBSON, Treatise (1899), 88V5-7). 

108. GOTTHEIL, "Legend" (1900-1), 59 [ET (1903), 1381 

109. TARTAR, "Dialogue" (1977), 206 [FT idem, Dialogue (1985), 2781. 


It is not impossible that the Christian apologetic use of this verse was a factor 
pushing Muslim commentators to seek interpretations of Al 'Imran (3):55 that did not 
involve Christ's death, at least not his death in the past. Thus al-Tabari reports the 
suggestions that the phrase inni mutawafflka (which I tentatively translated "I will 
cause thee to die") means "I will cause thee to sleep" so that God raised Jesus to 
Himself in his sleepf 1 *® or that it means inni qabiduka, "I will grasp thee," so that 
mutawafflka and rafi'uka are virtual synonyms/ 1 U) We should not, however, 
exaggerate the degree to which Christian pressure determined this exegesis. What is 
decisive for al-Tabari in choosing the interpretation mutawafflka = qabiduka is not 
the necessity of denying the crucifixion of Jesus, but rather the necessity of bringing 
the verse into harmony with the sound hadith reports that state that Jesus will die 
only after he returns to fight and kill the Antichrist." xr > 

We have evidence for the use of yet another interpretation of Al 'Imran (3):55 
and its role in debate with Christians. The anonymous Nestorian tract al-Radd 'aid 
man gahada l-salb ("The Refutation of the One Who Denies the Crucifixion") records 
a Muslim response to the Christian use of Al Imran (3):55 based on a possibility of 
Arabic grammar: al-taqdlm wa-l-ta'hir, the occurrence of words in the reverse of 
their logical or temporal order/ 1 13 > As applied to Al 1 Imran (3):55, this means that in 
the phrase inni mutawafflka wa-rafi'uka ilayya ("I will cause thee to die and raise 
thee to me"), "the 'and' does not impose the [temporal] order," as al-Tabarsi put it/ 114 ) 
adding that al-Dahhak (d. 723) supported this argument with al-Qamar (54):18, ^JlSJ 
jU>j ^l-A-* jli" ("How then were My chastisement and My warnings?"), where the 
nuzur ("warnings") obviously precede the 'addb ("chastisement") despite the word 
order/ 115 ) Therefore the passage means: "I will raise thee to me and will cause thee 
to die, i.e. afterwards. "< U6 > 

In al-Radd 'aid man gahada l-salb, the answer to this argument is the citation 
of another Qur'anic passage in which God is the subject, and Jesus the object, of the 
verb tawaffa: al-Ma'idah (5):117, , j JLp .i jJ\ cS\ C.-X ^-.i y LJLi ("when thou 

110. TABARl, Tafslr (1955-), VI, 455 (#7133). This interpretation, favored by Ibn Katir, receives its 
plausibility from the Qur'an's use of the verb tawaffa to refer to sleep in al-An'am (6):60 and 
al-Zumar (39>.42. 

111. Ibid., VI, 455-57 (#7134-40). 

112. Ibid., VI, 460-61. For extensive discussions of the interpretation of the verb tawaffa in the 
Quran and the classical commentators, see ROBINSON, Christ (1991), 117-26. 

113. See below, pp. 298-99 (#2). The possibility of such an interpretation is mentioned by TABARl, 
Tafslr (1955-), VI, 458. 

114. t_-J jiJl Y Apl. TABARSI (Magma' (n.d.), II, 95. Practically the same language is used in a 
gloss on a line of the Hamasah by the philologist Yahya b. 'AH al-Tibrizi (d. 1109), who gives the 
example of Al 'Imran (3):43: j\ } ^ Jj>_I ("prostrate yourself and bow"), although in actual 
prayer the bowing precedes the prostration; FREYTAG, Carmina (1828), 558. 

115. TABARSj {Magma' (n.d.), II, 95. 

116. So Ibn Katir on the authority of Qatadah (d. 736) and others: ^id ayjJz i J »~^J\ j ^.lLJI jj> I JL» 
«iJJS -Xju ^ iiLi^j J i IBN KATIR, Tafslr (1970-83), II, 44. 


didst cause me [Jesus] to die (?), Thou wast Thyself the watcher over them"). (117) Left 
unstated in al-Radd is the fact that this Qur'anic phrase is taken from an exchange 
between God and Jesus introduced (in verse 116) with the words <a>l JU iij ("And 
when God said...")- Therefore tawaffaytani ("thou didst cause me to die") is a past 
tense verb in a past speech (id qdla). The point is that once the Muslim admits that 
Jesus' wafah in Al 'Imrdn (3):55 is his death, then the parallel phrase in al-Md'idah 
(5):117 can leave no doubt that his wafah occurred in the past. al-Radd then goes on 
to assimilate the rest of the verse to the Christian narrative: God was the watcher 
over the Christians after Jesus died, and after his ascension into heaven/ 118 ) 

The argument of al-Radd ends here, but a further step in the discussion had 
been anticipated by Muslim commentators. Qatadah, having opted for the solution of 
al-taqdlm wa-l-ta'hir in interpreting Al 'Imrdn (3):55, consistently argued that in 
al-Md'idah (5):116 God's questioning of Jesus is future rather than past. Ibn Gurayg 
pointed out that this requires that id qdla -lldhu ("When God said") be understood as 
ida qdla -lldhu ("When God will say"), and defended the possibility of such an 
interpretation/ 119 ) al-Tabarl, however, rejected this interpretation on the basis of 
common Arabic usage: id is used for the past, ida for the future/ 120 ) 

3. A summary 

The first step in Timothy's argument has been that Al 'Imrdn (3):55 and 
Maryam (19):33 imply that Jesus underwent death, resurrection to life, and ascension 
to God, in that order. Since there is complete consensus between Christians and 
Muslims concerning the reality of the ascension of Jesus to God, the reality of his 
death is established. 

Thus far, Timothy's argument appears strong. It may be attacked, but we have 
seen that the attack sometimes resorts to abstruse grammatical devices, such as 
al-taqdlm wa-l-ta'hir or the understanding of id as ida, that a respected Muslim 
commentator like al-Tabarl found questionable. And we note that al-Tabarfs own 
solution involves a somewhat forced definition (mutawaffika = qdbiduka) dictated not 
so much by the Qur'an's own usage as by a need to harmonize the text with a 
conception found in the hadith literature. 

117. See below, pp. 298-99 (#2). 

118. Compare the "Apocalypse/Legend of Bahira," where we find echoes of the same phrase, but with 

Jesus as the subject: «-LoCj o*^ ^Js- < J^Jl jU»j o^-U j ("he gave up the spirit of his 

humanity, and became the watcher over his Church and his disciples"); GOTTHE1L, "Legend" 
(1900-1), 60 [ET (1903), 1381 

119. TABARI, Tafslr (1955-), XI, 234-36 (#13031). See also IBN QUTAYBAH, Muskil (1954), 227, where 
this verse is offered as a case of the past (here Jli) being used for the present or the future 

120. TABARI, Tafsir (1955-), XI, 236. 


Timothy has not yet said anything about the manner of this death. It is to that 
that we now turn.* 121 ' 

B. The Witness of the Christian Scripture 

1. Timothy's debate, II 

The historicity of the death of Jesus having been established from the Qur'an, 
the next step in Timothy's argument is to demonstrate that this death took place by 
crucifixion. To do this he calls attention to the prophets' predictions of the passion 
of Christ, recorded in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New. In response to 
al-Mahdl's question "Which of the prophets said that he died by crucifixion?"* 122 ) 
Timothy gives five examples, one each from the prophecies of David, Isaiah, 
Jeremiah, Daniel, and Zechariah:* 123 ) Psalm 22:16b-18 ("They pierced my hands and 
feet, all my bones cried out, they gazed at me and watched me. They divided my 
garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots"), Isaiah 53:5 ("He was killed 
for our sins and abased for our iniquity."), Jeremiah 11:19 ("Wood shall ravage his flesh 
and shall cast him out from the land of the living.")/ 1 24 > Daniel 9:26a ('The anointed 
one (msiha) shall be killed, and shall have nothing"), and Zechariah 13:7 ("Smite the 
shepherd of Israel upon his cheeks,"* 125 ' and "Awake, O sword, against my 
shepherd.").* 126 > Timothy concludes his list by noting that it is by no means exhaustive: 
"the prophecies in which the prophets spoke of his death, killing, and crucifixion are 
numerous."* 127 ' 

Timothy's use of these Old Testament prophecies of the passion and death of 
Christ raises a number of questions. Does he expect that his appeal to the Old 
Testament is going to be convincing to his Muslim interlocutor? Or does the limited 

121. We recall that, like Timothy, the contemporary scholar Raisanen believes that the Qur'an affirms 
that Jesus died; see above, p. 100. It is in the next step of the argument that the Nestorian 
catholicos and the Finnish New Testament scholar part company. 

122. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 114/2/1. 

123. The following are my translations of the (Peshitta) citations in the Syriac text, MINGANA, 
"Apology" (1928), 114/2/2-15. 

124. On the reading of Jeremiah 11:19 as a prophecy of the crucifixion, which is attested as early as 
Justin Martyr, see ARMSTRONG, "Cross" (1979), 23, 33, 38. Timothy adds Isaiah 50:6 ("I gave my 
body to blows and cheeks to slaps. I did not turn my face away from from shame and spitting.") 
to his citation from Jeremiah. 

125. The phrase "of Israel upon his cheeks" is not found in Zechariah 13:7. 

126. The Arabic versions for the most part follow this list. The recension in twenty-seven questions 
omits Jer 11:19 and Zech 13:7, while the longer recension correctly attributes Is 50:6 to Isaiah, and 
extends the Zechariah citation to include Zech 13:6 ("What are these wounds in your hands?"). 
CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 141-42 (#31); PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 36*-37* (#193-97). 

127. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 114/2/15-16. 


role that these prophecies play in his argument reflect doubts about the efficacy of 
the argument from Old Testament prophecy? Why does he cite Old Testament 
passages rather than the more direct testimony of the New Testament? 

2. The adversus Judaios tradition and the availability of Old Testament testimonia 

To understand the prominence of the Old Testament in apologies such as that 
of Timothy it is useful to recall that, in a missionary and apologetic enterprise that 
can be traced back to the New Testament itself, Christians had sought to convince 
Jews that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah of Israel's scriptures and that 
his career was foretold in those scriptures in considerable detail. Collections of 
scriptural testimonia to the incarnation, ministry, passion, resurrection, and ascension 
of Christ were made, probably appearing in book form as early as the second 

As has already been mentioned/ 129 ) the seventh century A.D. was a period of 
renewed urgency in the Christian apologetic enterprise with respect to the Jews. The 
reasons for this are to be sought in the new social and inter-religious configurations 
brought about by the upheavals of the early seventh century in the eastern provinces 
of the Byzantine empire: the Sassanian conquest, the campaigns and policies of 
Heraclius, the final Byzantine collapse and the establishment of Islamic rule.' 130 ) The 
outcome of these upheavals for Christians - and for Melkite Christians in particular - 
was that they were no longer in a politically privileged position over against their 
religious rivals, including the Jews, and henceforth would have to rely on argument, 
and not on state power, to defend and promote their religious claims/ 131 ) The 
arguments of this renewed controversy with the Jews are preserved for us in texts 
such as "The Teaching of Jacob the Newly-baptized,"< 132 ) "Questions Addressed to 

128. See DANIELOU, Testimonia (1966), esp. 5-11. Melito of Sardis (d. before 190) probably composed 
a book of testimonia. The oldest such works in our possession are those of Cyprian (written 
246-48) and of "pseudo-Gregory of Nyssa" (ca. 400). For a description of these works, see 
WILLIAMS, Adversus Judaeos (1935), 56-64 and 124-31, respectively. 

129. See above, pp. 87-88. 

130. For the first two items in this list and their effect on Christian-Jewish relations, see 
DAGRON/DEROCHE, "Juifs" (1991), 17-43. More generally, see GRIFFITH, 'Tract" (1985), 59-60. 

131. See the comments of CRONE, "Iconoclasm" (1980), 60-62. 

132. Ed. and FT: DAGRON/DEROCHE, "Juifs" (1991). Dagron (ibid., 247) would date the text some 
years after 634 (the date given in the text) but before 646-47. 


Antiochus the Dux"<- 133) "The Trophies of Damascus,^ 134 ) "The Disputation of Sergius 
the Stylite against a Jew,"( 135 > and a number of other works.< 136) Several of these offer 
quite extensive catalogues of Old Testament testimonia to the mission of Christ, 
including his passion and death/ 137 ) 

The adversus Judaios tradition and its associated literary form the 
resn'raoma-catalogue were quick to find their way into Arabic/ 138 ) Both "The 
Teaching of Jacob,"( 139 ' and "Questions Addressed to Antiochus the Dux" < - li °i were 
translated into Arabic at an early date, and the catalogue of testimonia found as 
Quaestio 137 in the latter work also "migrated" in its Arabic garb to become Book IV 
of al-Burhan of Peter of Bayt Ra's.< 141 > If the attribution can be trusted, Theodore 
Abu Qurrah composed a catalogue of Old Testament prophecies of Christ's incarnation 
and career, and of the abolition of Judaism and the entrance of the Gentiles [into the 

133. Ed. and LT: PG 28, 597-710. On this work see BARDY, "Litterature" (1933). CRONE 
("Iconoclasm" (1980), 61, note 8) argues for a late seventh-century date on the basis of the content 
of Quaestio 42, while DEROCHE ("Polemique" (1991), 279) points out that Quaestio 137 may have 
circulated independently before its incorporation into the collection. 

134. Ed. and FT: BARDY, "Trophees" (1920). The date of the text is uncertain, but falls in the second 
half of the seventh century. See DEROCHE, "Polemique" (1991), 280. 

135. Ed. and ET: HAYMAN, Disputation (1973). This work dates from the eighth century. 

136. On these texts, see WILLIAMS, Adversus Judaios (1935), 151-80, and more recently DEROCHE, 
"Polemique" (1991), 275-84. 

137. Especially important in this regard are passages in 'The Teaching of Jacob," esp. I, 23-27, 31-34 
and V, 13-15; see DAGRON/DEROCHE, "Juifs" (1991), 102-21, 202-9) and Quaestio 137 of 
"Questions Addressed to Antiochus the Dux (PG 28, esp. 694-98). 

138. For a preliminary listing of Arabic Christian apologetic and polemical works vis-a-vis the Jews, see 
SAMIR, "Terre-Sainte" (1980), 415-16. An important addition to this list is the "Book of the 
Master and the Pupil" in 43 chapters by the monk Thaddeus of Edessa {GCAL II, 219 (#1)), 
preserved in Sinai ar. 494 (12th a), 495 (1022 A.D), and 499 (11th a). In the Sinai archive we also 
find the "Questions Asked by Ibrahim of his Uncle, the Teacher Mar Afram" {GCAL I, 432-33) 
preserved in Sinai ar. 513 (10th a), ff. 226 r -244 r (in addition to Paris syr. 203 (1470 A.D.), 
mentioned by Graf). 

139. The oldest Arabic witness, Mingana christ. ar. 237, is a single parchment leaf written in what 
Mingana describes as "an early Christian KufI hand of about A.D. 950;" MINGANA, Catalogue III 
(1939), 47. For other manuscripts of the Arabic version of 'The Teaching of Jacob," see GCAL I, 
372-74, adding Sinai ar. 627 (12th a), ff. l r -90 r to Graf's witnesses. 

140. The Arabic version is found in several ninth- and tenth-century parchment manuscripts from 
Sinai, including Sinai ar. 330 (10th a), ff. 273 v -283 r and Sinai ar. NF perg. 17 and 25 (#1) in 
addition to the parchments mentioned by Graf {GCAL I, 312-13 (#8)): Strass. or. 4226 (885-86 
A.D.), ff. 45 v -59 v and Sinai ar. 431 (10th a), ff. 255 r -321 r . Later witnesses to be added to Graf's 
list are Sinai ar. 474, 481 and 485. 

141. Ed. CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61), II, 114-32 (#611-32). The identification of the Arabic text 
was reported in GRAF, "Werk" (1912). 


people of God] in the unbelieving Jews' place/ 142 ) A similar catalogue is preserved as 
Chapter 13 of al-Gami' wuguh al-lmdnyw which contains not only prophesies of 
Christ's incarnation and saving work, but also - to use the language of the chapter's 
title - of the "entry of the Gentiles and the rejection of the Jews."( 144 > From all of 
this, we see that the adversus Judaios tradition, with the literary form of the 
testimonia catalogue in its service, was very much alive for the Christian apologists of 
the ninth century. 

3. The Old Testament testimonia, the Muslims, and the crucifixion 

(a) Muslim-directed apologetics and the testimonia catalogues 

When events obliged Christian apologists to direct their attention to the 
Muslims, it was entirely natural that they should seek to use the wealth of apologetic 
material produced in the course of the controversy with the Jews. This 
"redeployment" of apologetic resources from the Jewish to the Muslim "theater" no 
doubt seemed all the more natural because of the similarities that Christian apologists 
thought to discern between Jewish and Islamic belief, similarities that led the 
catholicos Timothy and others to refer to the Muslims as the "new Jews."< 145 ) In 
particular, Muslims confessed their belief in God's prophets; so why should not 
Christian arguments from prophecy developed in the encounter with the Jews be 
equally suitable in the encounter with Muslims? 

The Arabic testimonia catalogues of Abu Qurrah and of al-Gami' wuguh 
al-iman that have just been mentioned plainly fit into the adversus Judaios tradition. 
A result of the "redeployment" of apologetic resources described here, however, is the 
existence of similar catalogues, scattered throughout the earliest Arabic Christian 
apologetic literature, which are not explicitly and solely directed against the Jews. 
Notable examples are found among the writings of Abu Qurrah/ 146 ' Abu Ra'itah/ 147 ' 

142. For the full title of the work preserved in Sbath (Aleppo?) 1324, pp. 231-41, see above, p. 14, note 

143. BL or. 4950, ff. 54 v -76 r . 

144. 3>t Jl J^o . . . J* ii.Jl»Jlj il ^ obl+i; BL or. 4950, ff. 54 v -55 r . 

145. Thus the catholicos Timothy in his (Syriac) Letter 40 to Sergius; H. CHEIKHO, Dialectique (1983), 
275 [FT 186] (#7). See also the Syriac version of Athanasius' letter to Maximus; for an Arabic 
version of the Syriac, see below, pp. 236-38. An excellent discussion of the issues involved here 
is GRIFFITH, "Jews" (1988). 

146. If, that is, the attribution of the list of prophecies in Sbath (Aleppo?) 1324 (pp. 223-30) is correct. 
See above, pp. 13-14. 

147. "Old Testament Witnesses," GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 94-104. 


Eustathius/ 148 ' and Peter of Bayt Ra's/ 149 ' The catalogue of Eustathius is of special 
interest, being neither an independent treatise (as in the case of Abu Qurrah and Abu 
Ra'itah) nor a section within a compilation (as in the case of Peter of Bayt Ra's or the 
author of al-Gdmi'), but an integral part of a work addressed to a Muslim. At the 
end of his extensive list of Old Testament prophecies to the incarnation and earthly 
career of Christ, Eustathius vigorously sets out the two possible stances that a person 
may take with regard to this material:^ 50 ) 

(1) MS jAj. (2) MS UliL. (3) MS ii+~>J\. 

. . . By my life, there is nothing to deliver him from faith in that [Christian teaching] 
except the denial of what God has said previously on the tongues of the truthful 
prophets. If he denies them, in that he does not believe in them, then he is a 
resentful unbeliever in that with which God is pleased! And if he confirms it and 
believes in it, then he is obliged to confirm in faith all that has come in it, in all its 

Eustathius' point is clear: those who claim to believe in God's prophets - as do the 
Muslims - ought to pay heed to the Old Testament prophecies (as expounded by the 

(b) Muslim-directed apologetics and the prophecies of the crucifixion 

An important aspect of what God had said through the prophets, for 
Eustathius, was the prediction of Christ's passion and death. He devotes several pages 

148. Mingana chr. ar. 52, ff. 32 r -46 r . 

149. Book II of al-Burhan offers rather detailed typological exegeses of Old Testament passages held to 
foreshadow the Incarnation and career of Christ; CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61), II, 1-67 
(#401-504). Book III is a collection of passages related to Christ, presented without comment in 
the order in which they appear in the Old Testament; ibid., II, 68-113 (#505-610). 

150. Mingana chr. ar. 52, f. 45 r /14-45 v /3. Eustathius returns to this theme at ff. 147 v -148 v , where he 
once again stresses the truthfulness and divine mission of the prophets. He asserts that when 
human beings stand in judgment over prophetic speech the result is the denial of every scripture, 
and complete irreligion. 


to a list of Old Testament predictions of the passion/ 151 ' and draws attention to the 
precise correspondence between the Old Testament prophecies and the details of the 
New Testament passion narratives/ 1 52 > 

Christian apologists had been making use of the Old Testament prophecies of 
Christ's passion and death in discussions with Muslim long before Eustathius' time, as 
we learn from two theologians of the early eighth century: the Jacobite sty lite John 
(Yohannan) of Litarba (d. ca. 737-38) and the Melkite John of Damascus (d. ca. 750). 
In the stylite's Syriac debate-report, a clearly Muslim "opponent" attempts to trap the 
Christian into the admission that God is the source of evil/ 153 ) 

The opponent said: "Whether Christ died or not, an evil consequence ensues 
. . . , either for the Jews, or for the prophets. Because if he died, then the Jews 
disbelieve in him and will be cast away into Hell! But if he did not die, then the 
prophets lied and their preaching is voidF' 

The dilemma clearly presupposes a Christian apologetic insistence that the prophets 
had foretold the death of Christ at the hands of the Jews, a point which the Muslim 
"opponent" here concedes - if only for the purposes of the dilemma! 

As for John of Damascus, in the chapter on Islam in his neoi 
Aipeaecov ("Concerning Heresies") he responds to the claim of Muhammad's 
prophethood as follows:" 54 ' 

We say: ". . . . Which of the prophets foretold that such a prophet would arise?" And 
they being at a loss, [we say] . . . that all the prophets in succession, beginning from 
Moses, prophesied Christ's advent, that Christ is God, that the Son of God would come 
in the flesh, be crucified, die, and be raised, and will be the Judge of the living and 
the dead. 

A few lines further on, John makes a comment with respect to the divinity of Christ 
that could equally well apply to the reality of his crucifixion: "[T]his is what the 
prophets and the scripture have handed down; and you, as you strongly insist, accept 
the prophets!"" 55 ^ 

The texts of the theologians of Litarba and Damascus strongly suggest that the 
earliest Christian response to Muslim denials of the reality of the crucifixion was an 

15L Ibid., ff. 40 v -43 r . His list includes: Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 72:6,8; Zechariah 11:12; "Jeremiah" 
(Matthew 27:9-10); Psalm 109:8 (on Judas's betrayal); Jeremiah 11:19; Isaiah 53:7-8; Psalm 22:16-18, 
6-8; "Jeremiah" (Isaiah 50:6); "Isaiah" (Joel 3:15-16); Psalm 69:21; Isaiah 52:8b-10, 53:5; Daniel 9:26; and 
Ezekiel 47:2, 8-9 (on the water that flowed from Christ's pierced right side). 

152. Drawing on the appropriate New Testament passages, Eustathius frequently asserts that Christ 
accepted suffering and death in order to fulfill the prophecies. See, for example, ibid., f. 51 r /4-7 
(with reference to Matthew 26:53-54); 85V8-13 (Luke 1831-33); and 99 r - v (Matthew 5:17, Romans 
10:4, John 19:28-30, Luke 24:44). 

153. From the Syriac text in SUERMANN, "Johannan" (1988-89), 211. 

154. KOTTER, Liber (1981), 61-62 (lines 33-41). 

155. Ibid., 63 (lines 63-64). 


emphasis on the Old Testament prophecies -- which of course could be found in a 
convenient form in any of a number of testimonia catalogues. 

(c) Caution in the use of the Old Testament 

As we progress through the eighth century, however, we discern a developing 
caution with regard to the use of the Old Testament prophecies. As we have seen, in 
the dialogue of Timothy and al-Mahdl (from ca. 781) the catholicos relies on the Old 
Testament only for a single step in his argument: to show that Christ's death, the 
actual past occurrence of which had been proved by Qur'anic argument, was death by 
crucifixion. And a few years later (ca. 788), the anonymous Melkite author of the 
oldest dated Arabic Christian apologetic text in our possession, Fi tat lit Allah 
al-wahid of Sinai ar. 154, introduced his discussion of the cross as follows:< 156 > 

(1) MS La. (2) MS oJL>. 

1 And this is what the prophets of God prophesied concerning the crucifixion 
of Christ, through which he redeemed us from the misguidance of the Devil and his 

2 Moses prophesied, to whom God spoke and caused his face to blaze [so that] 
none of the Children of Israel were then able to look at his face. 3 He prophesied 
concerning the crucifixion of Christ and said to the children of Israel in the Tawrah, 
which God sent down to him: "You shall see your life hanging before your eyes, and 
you shall not believe" [Deuteronomy 28:66, LXX]/ 157 ' 4 What life was hanging before 
the eyes of the children of Israel, in which they did not believe, other than the Light 
of God? 

5 So understand what the prophets have prophesied by the Holy Spirit 
concerning Christ, who was crucified, and who by his crucifixion crucified sin and 
destroyed the Devil. 

156. Sinai ar. 154, ff. 137 r /ll-137 v /9. F. 137 r is unfortunately rather badly faded. 

157. The use of the Septuagint version of Deuteronomy 28:66 as a prophecy of the cross is first 
attested in Melito of Sardis, and frequently thereafter. See DANIELOU, "Leben" (1960). 


The author then goes on to discuss another Pentateuchal passage which was 
understood as a prophecy of Christ's crucifixion, the story of the bronze serpent in the 
wilderness (Numbers 21:6-9).( 1S8 > 

This text is interesting because the author does not simply reproduce the most 
familiar and most frequently cited Old Testament prophecies of the crucifixion of 
Christ (such as Timothy's citations from David (Psalms), Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and 
Zechariah), but limits himself to passages from the Pentateuch. He has good reasons 
for this. Intent upon crafting a recommendation of the prophecies he cites to 
Muslims inclined to deny the Christian interpretation of their content, the Christian 
apologist stresses that the prophecies are those of the prophet Moses ,< 159 > to whom 
God spoke directly - one thinks of al-Nisa' (4):164, uJL^J *al \ 3 ("and unto 

Moses God spoke directly") -- and to whom God sent down (anzala) the TawrahS 16 °i 
The Muslim should therefore, according to the author, be prepared to accept these 
prophecies, and hence to accept the reality of Christ's crucifixion: "So understand 
what the prophets have prophesied by the Holy Spirit concerning Christ, who was 

As another example, we may mention Abu Qurrah's Muslim-directed set of 
linked treatises, "On the Necessity of Redemption," "On the Possibility of the 
Incarnation," and "On the Divinity of the Son," which dates from the late eighth or 
early ninth century. In "On the Necessity of Redemption," Abu Qurrah first argues 
for the necessity of Christ's suffering and death on the basis of what he takes to be 
teachings common to Christians and Muslims because of their presence in the 
Law "sent down" to Moses/ 161 ) Only when the argument is complete does he cite 
Isaiah 50:5-6 and 53:2-7, Psalm 22:16-18, and Zechariah 12:10, concluding: "All the 
prophets mentioned his pains, through which took place the salvation of the world."( 162 > 
Similarly, in "On the Divinity of the Son," it is only after he has presented arguments 
from al-'aql, reason, that Abu Qurrah states that "in addition to all this and better'^ 1 ") 
is the proof of the Son's divinity, incarnation, and redemptive work from the 
prophecies of the Old Testament, readily available from either the Christians or the 
Jews/ 164 ) 

It is, on the one hand, perfectly clear that Christian apologists did make use of 
Old Testament prophecies of the passion in their arguments for the historicity and 

158. Sinai ar. 154, ff. 137 v -139 r . 

159. One is reminded here of the earliest Muslim-Christian religious discussion for which we have a 
text, that between the patriarch John (called "of the sedras") of Antioch and the governor of Hims 
'Umayr b. Sa'd in 644. In this discussion, the Muslim insisted that the Christian confine himself 
to citations from Moses. NAU, "Colloque" (1915), 250/23-251/1. 

160. Note the author's precise use of the Qur'anic vocabulary of revelation; cf. al-Maidah (5):44, 
al-An'am (6):91, etc. 

161. See below, pp. 212-16. 

162. pJbJl jl^ I*. ,^1 Ji ^ '^-J^; BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 86-87. 

163. Iju J-^'j a1£ li* ibid., 98/6. 

164. Ibid., lines 4-8. Abu Qurrah goes on to mention the New Testament as well. 


necessity of Christ's death by crucifixion. As late as the mid-ninth century, Eustathius 
was prepared to make a case for why Muslims ought to be responsive to arguments 
from Old Testament prophecy, and to fill pages with prophecies of the passion. At 
the very least, such arguments would have been useful in addressing Christians whose 
faith had been shaken by Muslim claims, or who were tempted away from the faith 
by the improved socio-economic opportunities opened up to converts to Islam in the 
Abbasid period. Testimonia catalogues may well have served to impress such 
wavering Christians with the intra-systemic coherence of the Christian 
biblical/dogmatic understanding of reality - an understanding to which the crucifixion 
of Christ is central. And therefore the Christian apologists of this study, when 
speaking of the crucifixion, seldom neglect to mention the witness of the prophets, if 
only in passing. Even the author of "The Refutation of the One Who Denies the 
Crucifixion," who relies almost entirely on Qur'anic arguments in his defence of the 
crucifixion's historicity, introduces his final summary with these words: "The 
prophecies testified beforehand to . . . his crucifixion."* 1 ") 

On the other hand, however, we have noted that several Christian apologists, 
when discussing the crucifixion, use the Old Testament prophecies in a cautious and 
circumscribed way. Timothy appeals to the Old Testament only to establish the 
manner of Christ's death, the fact of it having been established by a Qur'anic 
argument. The anonymous Melkite author of Fl tat lit Allah al-wahid limits himself 
to prophecies from the Pentateuch, introduced by a biblical/Qur'anic argument for the 
authority of Moses. In his treatise on redemption, Abu Qurrah cites the prophets 
Isaiah, David and Zechariah more to illustrate the consistency and connectedness of 
the scriptures and the Christian understanding of reality based upon them than to 
prove the historicity of the events of salvation history. Later on, in his treatise on 
the divinity of the Son, Abu Qurrah turns to the scriptures only after completing his 
arguments from reason. 

This caution is readily explained. Already Timothy had to confront the claims 
that the text of the Christian and Jewish scriptures had been corrupted/ 166 ) and that, in 
spite of their corruption, prophecies of Muhammad could still be discerned in these 
scriptures/ 167 ) Christian apologists quickly learned that the use of the Old (or the 
New) Testament in any given locus of discussion was likely to lead to debate about 
entirely different loci: the corruption (tahrlf) of the Christians' scripture, or the 
prophecies of Muhammad allegedly found therein. 

165. aA^> ^ t^l ciilj OJ^-i JJ ja ol y^\y, see below, p. 306 (#16). 

166. See, conveniently, PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 26* (#124-29), 47*-51* (#248-72) (and parallels 
in the other recensions of the text). 

167. Ibid., 23*-25* (#102-21), 27*-30* (#134-53), 43*-44* (#228-37) (and parallels). A major part of the 
Kitab al-dln wa-l-dawlah of 'All al-Tabari is taken up with the prophecies of Muhammad found 
in the Christian scriptures. 


(d) Excursus I: Is Christ cursed? On Deuteronomy 21:23 

Several Muslim polemicists who searched the Old Testament, whether in search 
of evidence of tahrif or of prophecies of Muhammad, took note of Deuteronomy 
21:23: "a crucified man is accursed by God."* 168 ) Eustathius reports the 
naturally-occurring question in its most straightforward form: "How do they [the 
Christians] take pride in his crucifixion, when in the Tawrah it is written, 'Everyone 
who is crucified is accursed'?"* 1 69 > The author of the "Letter of 'Umar" worked 
Christian claims of Christ's agency in revelation into his question for greater 
rhetorical effect, asking: "You have claimed that 'Isa sent Moses and revealed to him 
the Tawrah. But you find in the Tawrah that 'the one crucified is accursed.' Did 'Isa 
then curse himself?"* 170 ) 'All al-Tabari became aware of the verse as it is cited by the 
apostle Paul in Galatians 3:13, and made the (rather confused) claim in his al-Radd 
'aid l-Nasara that "in his letters he cursed Christ unambiguously!"* 171 ) 

Since the question had occupied Christian thinkers practically from 
Christianity's dawn, as we see from Galatians 3, Arabic Christian apologists had little 
trouble in dealing with it. Eustathius responded to the effect that the curse only 
applies to the wrongdoer crucified for his wrongdoing; as for the one crucified 
innocently, the curse falls upon those who put him to death despite his innocence.* 172 ) 
An interesting detail in the discussion is Eustathius' observation that although the 
serpent was cursed in the creation story (Genesis 3:14-15), its image (mital) was 
salvation to the children of Israel from the serpents' sting (Numbers 21:4-9). Just so, 
the crucifixion of Christ (who, Eustathius no doubt intends, was in his crucifixion the 
mital of one cursed) was the salvation of the world from Satan's sting.* 173 ) 

Another discussion of Deuteronomy 21:23 and Galatians 3:13 is to be found in 
Chapter 7 of al-Gdmi' wugiih al-lmanW*) which is part of the author's discussion of 
the salvific motives for the Incarnation. The author, who here is not writing a direct 
response to a Muslim questioner, closely follows St. Paul's argument in Galatians. 
Human beings are unable to do all that which is demanded in the Law, and thus are 
under a curse (Deuteronomy 27:46; Galatians 3:10). But Christ, himself blameless, 
enters into "definition as a curse" (hadd al-la'nah) in order to save us from the 
curse.* 175 ) 

168. This verse had previously been used by Jews in disputes with Christians, already by Trypho in 
Justin's "Dialogue with Trypho" LXXXIX.2, XC,1 (ARCHAMBAULT, Dialogue (1909), II, 80-83), and 
more recently in the eighth-century "Disputation of Sergius the Stylite against a Jew," V,l 
(HAYMAN, Disputation (1973), 9 [ET 11]). 

169. ._>jt ya. jii ^>y^j> i\ jyj\ ^ 3 1 4 . 1 .,<a ; o 3 J>^ju JtX; Mingana chr. ar. 52, f. 151 r /ll— 13. 

170. j « ! ,. > ' .j_,ji_L. >_> j I » ji ij_>>Jl ,_yi Oj-J^ (t^'j '^j^ 1 *-^* Jj-^j (_r"*_>-* — 
? *-Ju tr - = *; SOURDEL, "Pamphlet" (1966), 27/3-4. 

171. Ul^ jjj J Ji; MURQUS GIRGIS, Sahaih (1927-28), 106/20. 

172. Mingana chr. ar. 52, ff. 151 r -152 r . 

173. Ibid., ff. 151 v /14 - 152 r /5. 

174. BL or. 4950, ff. 32 r -34 r , ed. MA'LUF, "Aqdam al-mahtutat" (1903), 1017-19. 


(e) Excursus II: The testimonies of the pagan sages 

Before leaving this discussion of the Old Testament prophecies to the career of 
Christ, including his passion and death, we may take note of Arabic Christian texts 
where we find lists of prophecies not only from the Jewish prophets, but also 
from the pagan sages. Thus, for example, in the (11th a?) rhymed Nestorian 
compilation al-Magdal, the chapter on the cross includes a section "from the 
prophecies of the sages of the pagans to the crucifixion before its occurrence."^ 76 ) 

I do not find any evidence that these prophecies played a significant role in 
Christian-Muslim controversy over the crucifixion in the eighth and ninth centuries, 
although it is not difficult to imagine Christians familiar with the Greek literary and 
philosophical heritage attempting to exploit any promising material in conversations 
with Muslim colleagues. In any event, at least one Arabic recension of "The Wisdom 
of Sibyl" ("Arab. Ill") did circulate within the arabophone Christian community as 
early as the second decade of the ninth century, and others may have been in 
circulation earlier still. They no doubt played a role in shoring up the faith of 
Christians, reassuring them that the redemptive career of "the one who was hung 
upon the cross" (alladi 'ulliqa 'aid l-salib I l-hasaba I l-'ud, as the various recensions 
of "The Wisdom of Sibyl" constantly call Christ) had been foreseen by divinely-gifted 
men and women throughout the world.* 177 * 

175. Compare this with Abu Qurrah's "On the Necessity of Redemption," discussed below, pp. 211-23. 

176. JJ *U^Jl ol^J jj-y Vatican ar. 108, f. 118 r or Paris ar. 190, p. 287. See also the list 
of prophecies of the Greek sages in Sinai ar. 553, ff. 8 r -30 v , a text of uncertain date. 

177. See SCHLEIFER, Sibylle (1908), 23, 25, 27 (esp. #7d-e). 


4. Arguments from the New Testament and Christian tradition 

(a) The witness of the apostles 

The existence of a rich Christian apologetic tradition vis-a-vis the Jews and the 
possibility of its "redeployment" in controversy with the "new Jews" results, for the 
Christian literature studied here, in the Old Testament being cited far more often than 
the New Testament in defence of the historicity of the crucifixion. Appeals to the 
veracity of the apostolic witness are not absent from this literature, however. One 
such appeal is found in the debate of Ibrahim al-Tabaranl, in a response to the emir 
'Abd al-Rahman al-Hasimi who had denied the historicity of the crucifixion of Jesus, 
citing the subbiha lahum of al-Nisd' (4):157.( 178 > Equating subbiha li with askala 
'aid ("was problematic, ambiguous for"), Ibrahim allows that Christ's crucifixion was 
indeed something problematic or ambiguous -- for his crucifiersS ]79 '> But he goes on 
to deny in the strongest possible terms that the matter could have been problematic 
or ambiguous for the disciples:( 180 ) 

.IjlpLv* oyu\s-j tp^*L»l *L»— Jl ^jJl it*_jj l y t *->j\ 

JL^ij ik-Jij . w)-l>JLj jJI ~ f.i _jl Oj^-i ^ji.Ct 


. . . because the apostles said that with their own eyes they saw him crucified; and he 
tasted death and was buried, and rose after three days, came to them several times after 
his resurrection and spoke with them, remained upon the earth after his resurrection 
forty days, and went up into heaven before them, and they saw him ascending with 
their own eyes. 

So how can it be that "it was doubtful to them" {subbiha lahum), or that the 
apostles should be accused of falsehood, when your prophet bears witness concerning 
them that they are the "helpers of God" (ansar Allah), and they said nothing except 
that inspired in them by the Holy Spirit, whom God sent to them? 

It is the Qur'dn that calls Christ's disciples "helpers of God" (Al 'Imrdn (3):52, al-Saff 
(61):14), and therefore Muslims ought to heed their witness to the passion, death, and 
resurrection of Christ. 

Such an argument could easily be extended into an attempt to prove the truth 

178. MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 390-91 (#276-77). 

179. Ibid. (#278). 

180. Ibid., 391, 393 (#280-83). 


of the gospels, and indeed of Christianity, in general. The fragment "On the 
Sufferings of Our Lord Christ" in Sinai ar. 553 contains a description of the passion, 
death, and resurrection of Christ/ 181 ) at the end of which the author states that all this 
is found in the books of the truthful witnesses (al-suhud al-muhiqqin). He then 
adds/ 182 ) 

(1) MS j-iJliwJl. (2) MS jj-, II. (3) MS 

The witness to them [Christ's disciples as "truthful witnesses"] 
is the opponents when they called them "helpers of God." 
In his book, their master [Muhammad] called Christianity 

"the religion of God" and "the religion of truth," 
and called the pure, radiant Gospel "light and guidance 
to the godfearing," [cf. al-Maidah (5):46] 
to those who fast contentedly, 
to those who pray, 
to those who command the good, 

and to those whose "eyes overflow with tears because of 
the truth they recognize" [al-Maidah (5):83l 

(b) The concurrence of the Jews 

A further argument made by the Christian apologists is that the Jewish 
authorities were also eyewitnesses to the crucifixion, and that the Jews had always 
acknowledged the fact of the crucifixion of Christ. The apologists considered this 
agreement in the matter of Christ's crucifixion - an agreement despite the rivalry 
between Christians and Jews -- as telling evidence for its historicity. At the very end 

181. Sinai ar. 553, f. 36 r - v . 

182. Ibid., f. 36V5-10. 


of 'The Refutation of the One Who Denies the Crucifixion," for example, we read/ 183 ' 

The Jews acknowledge their deed, and the partisans [of Christ] believed [in it] inasmuch 
as they were eyewitnesses; and the eyewitness is a witness to himself. [Therefore] there 
is no path of obstinacy for the person who is truthful in his speech. 

This argument appears to have gained a hearing in certain Muslim "heretical" circles, 
for it is repeated by Ibn al-Rawandl and Abu Zakariya' al-Razi in their critiques of 
the Qur'an/ 184 ' 

(c) The witness of place 

In the mid-fourth century, Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem, addressing catechumens, 
had exploited the role that places may play in preserving historical memory. In 
response to those who said that "the Cross is only an illusion (SoKrjou,)" and that 
"Christ was crucified in fancy (rata cpavtaoiav) only,"( 185 ' the bishop could point to 
Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives, the house of Caiphas, Golgotha, and the sepulchre 
as being among the witnesses (|j,aptupiai) of the passion of Christ/ 186 ' Continuing this 
Palestinian Christian tradition, Bishop Peter of Bayt Ra's (or one of his sources) lists 
among the spiritual "medicines and ointments^ 187 ' left us by Christ "his vestiges and 
the places of his holiness in the world"/ 188 ) particular churches, shrines, holy places, 
and relics, each of which is said to "bear witness to" events in the life of Christ and in 
that of the earliest church/ 189 ' These include the Church of the Mount of Olives 
(bearing witness to Christ's entry into Jerusalem), the church of Mount Zion (bearing 
witness to the Last Supper), and the Church of the Resurrection, with the site of 
Calvary (bearing witness to Christ's crucifixion)/ 190 ' 

(d) The True Cross 

The mention of "relics" in the last paragraph demands a special mention of the 
wood of the True Cross. Again, for Cyril of Jerusalem the wood of the cross, "now 
distributed piecemeal from Jerusalem over all the world," is a prime witness to the 

183. See below, p. 306 (#16). 

184. See below, pp. 141-42. 

185. Cat. XIII, 37 (PG 33, 816 [ET McCAULEY/STEPHENSON, Cyril (1969-70), II, 29]). 

186. Cat. X,19 and XIII,38-40 (PG 33, 685-88, 817-21 [ET McCAULEY/STEPHENSON, Cyril (1969-70), I, 
209; II, 29-31]). On the importance of these witnesses in Cyril's thought and teaching, see 
WALKER, City (1990), 330-34. 

187. fAlj-Jlj iyaVl; CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61), I, 151 (#273). Baptism and the Eucharist head 
the list. 

188. LJjdl J <L~Ai tJ \ZV, ibid., I, 165 (#310). 

189. The standard formula in this list is: ..._<... i x^zZ ("The church of . . . bears witness 

to . . ."); ibid., I, 166 ff. (#311, 312, 313 etc.). 

190. Ibid. I, 176-80 (#332-35, 338-39). 


historicity of Christ's crucifixion.* 1 91 > At the time of the Arab invasion of Palestine, 
however, the relic of the True Cross in Jerusalem was removed by the Byzantines to 
Constantinople. It is hardly surprising, then, that for Bishop Peter of Bayt Ra's the 
relic par excellence is not the (inaccessible) remains of the True Cross, but rather the 
sacred mandylion of Edessa.< 192 > But despite the inaccessibility of the True Cross, 
Christians living in Muslim-dominated Palestine retained vivid memories of it, to 
judge from the literature about it that came into Arabic at an early date/ 1 ") 

(e) Comments 

Most twentieth-century Christians would begin an argument for the historicity 
of the crucifixion with the sorts of evidence listed above: sources claiming to 
preserve eyewitness accounts, the historical consensus of the communities involved, 
ancient local tradition, material artifacts. However, arguments based on such evidence 
are not common in the literature we are studying, most likely for reasons that are of 
a piece with those already discussed with respect to the apologetic use of the Old 
Testament. Christian apologists soon learned that historical arguments for the reality 
of the crucifixion based on the New Testament and church tradition simply did not 
work very well in debate with Muslim scholars, since these arguments immediately 
came into conflict with developing Islamic notions about the corruption or tahrlf of 
the Christian scriptures and with a sophisticated and specifically Islamic methodology 
for establishing the truth of reports from the past/ 194 ) It was not long before Muslim 
polemicists were practicing a kind of biblical criticism, taking note of inconsistencies 
and contradictions in the gospels, also with respect to the passion narrative. Already 
'All al-Taban in his al-Radd 'aid l-Nasard and a Muslim questioner to whom the 
monk Eustathius responded asked whether both thieves crucified with Jesus reviled 
him (as in Matthew 27:44), or just one of the two (as in Luke 23:39-43).< I95 > Later 

191. Cat. X1II,4 (PG 33, 776-77 [ET McCAULEY/STEPHENSON, Cyril (1969-70), II, 6]). Also, see 
WALKER, City (1990), 258-60. 

192. CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61), I, 162 (#384). 

193. See above, p. 78, note 87. 

194. See, for example, the Kitab al-din wa-l-dawlah of 'All al-Tabari, who compares the direct, familial 
channels of witness concerning Muhammad that Muslims enjoy to the irregular channels through 
which Christians have received their reports concerning Christ; 'ADIL NUWAYHID, Din (1979), 
204 [ET MINGANA, Defence (1922), 162]. 

For a general introduction to Islamic hadith-criticism see ROBSON, "Hadith" (1971) and 
"Djarh" (1965). The date of the beginning of a concern for proper isndds is a matter of dispute 
— see JUYNBOLL, Tradition (1983), 17-21, or SHAUKAT, "Isnad" (1985) — but certainly falls 
within the first Islamic century. The first systematic isnad critic appears to have been Su'bah b. 
al-Haggag (d. 777); JUYNBOLL, Tradition (1983), 20. 

195. For 'Ali, see MURQUS GIRGIS, Sahaih (1927-28), 115/20-116/6. For Eustathius' interlocutor, see 
Mingana chr. ar. 52, f. 74 r /6-8. The response of Eustathius (and of al-Safi b. al-'Assal, in whose 
response 'All's question is preserved) is that the one thief reviled Jesus at first, but then repented; 


Muslim polemicists, following this lead, would devote considerable space to a critique 
of the gospel accounts of the passion/ 196 ) 

(f) Excursus: Three days and three nights? 

Another contradiction in the gospels brought up by Muslim questioners 
concerns Jesus' saying about the "sign of Jonah": "For as Jonah was three days and 
three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three 
nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 11:40). How can the three days and three 
nights of the saying be reconciled with Christ's (alleged) death on Friday and his 
resurrection early Sunday morning? Thanks to a citation in the al-Sahaih fl gawab 
al-nasa'ih of al-Safi b. al-'Assal, we know that 'All al-Tabari included this question in 
the chapter of his Radd dealing with contradictions between the gospels. According 
to al-Safi, 'All had written: "Christ did not remain in the earth three days, as he had 
said. M n97) 

Chapter 17 of al-Gami' wuguh al-lmdn is a list of responses to thirty-three 
questions of the sort typically asked by Muslims about particular texts in the gospels. 
Question 28< 198 > is the one raised by 'All: how are the three days and three nights of 
the Jonah saying to be completed? The response of the author of al-Gami' is 
complex, involving three presuppositions: (i) On the basis of Genesis 2:17b ("in the 
day that you eat of it you shall die") and the subsequent story of the fall (Adam ate 
and did not die, at least not physically), there is a sense in which a person can be 
alive and dead at once, (ii) According to Genesis 1:5b ("there was evening and there 
was morning, one day") and parallels, a full "day" runs from evening to evening, (iii) 
Christ rose from the dead toward dawn on Easter Sunday. The author of 
al-Gami' now argues that one begins the count of three days and three nights at the 
Last Supper on Thursday evening, when Christ gave his apostles his body to eat and 
his blood to drink. From that time, Christ considered himself among the dead/ 1 ") 
Counting from Thursday evening to dawn on Sunday morning yields three nights by 
the standard reckoning, but also three "days" - where a "day" is a twenty-four hour 
period or any part thereof, not necessarily a period of daylight. 

The author proceeds to turn his attention to the explanations of "some people" 
who would attempt to complete the count of three days and three nights by counting 
the darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour of Good Friday (Matthew 27:45, Mark 
15:33, Luke 23:44) as a night. For the author of al-Gami', such an expedient does not 

ibid. ff. 100 v -101 r . 

196. See, for example, al-Fisal of Ibn Hazm (d. 1064) (IBN HAZM, Fisal (1928-30), II, 42-44); or Sifa 
al-galll of al-Guwayni (d. 1085) (ALLARD, Textes (1968), 74-81). 

197. JU lS t.Ll cX, J>}i\ J ^ c ,„,.Jl 5i, MURQUS GIRGIS, Sahaih (1927-28), 114/20. 

198. BL or. 4950, ff. 110 v -112 r . 

199. 'jiyJ\ J^. *j& J <~Ju dU# jlT sill: -tJLJ Jaj, ibid., f. lll r /4-5. 


solve the problems involved. If one counts from the beginning of the darkness on 
Friday to dawn on Sunday, one day (i.e., a daylight period) is lacking from the total. 
The count does come out correctly if one begins earlier, that is, with the daylight 
period before the onset of darkness at the sixth hour, but the author of al-Gami' finds 
this interpretation forced in comparison to his own proposal which neatly provides for 
three full nights and two and a half 24-hour periods, naturally counted as three "days." 
Furthermore, he believes that such explanations are flatly contradicted by the 
well-known and much-cited prophecies of the darkness at Christ's crucifixion, Amos 
8:9 and Zechariah 14:6-7, which speak of events "on that day." The author of 
al-Gami' insists that "that day" is not to be construed as two days and a night! 

This argument is an interesting contribution to a discussion which had involved 
several Greek and Syriac fathers of the Church. "Some people" who began the count 
from the sixth hour of Friday, counting the darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour 
as a night, include Origert 200 ) and John of Damascus/ 201 ) who counted the uncreated 
light of the resurrection itself as the third "day." Others who began the count with 
the daylight before the sixth hour on Friday include Origen again, the Didascalia, 
Ephraim the Syrian, and Epiphanius of Salamis/ 202 ' That the calculation should begin 
with the Last Supper is the contribution of Aphrahat "the Persian sage" and Gregory 
of Nyssa. Aphrahat and Gregory, however, both counted the darkness on Friday 
afternoon as a night so as to yield three periods of darkness and three of light 
between the Last Supper and Saturday evening, held to be the time of the resurrection 
in accordance with Matthew 28:la.( 203 > 

Two elements of the explanation of al-Gami' are, to the best of my knowledge, 
original: (i) its critique of a large part of the exegetical tradition on the basis of texts 
such as Amos 8:9 and Zechariah 14:6; and, related to this, (ii) its use of Genesis 1:5b in 
order to define a full "day" as the period from evening to evening, in contrast to 
Gregory of Nyssa or John of Damascus, who had used Genesis 1:5a ("God called the 
light Day, and the darkness he called Night") in order to justify counting a 
(three-hour) period of darkness as a "night."( 204 ) The greatest weakness of the 
explanation of al-Gami', from the standpoint of the patristic tradition, is its 
assumption that Christ rose toward dawn on Sunday morning; in general, the fathers 
assumed that the oye oaPPatcov of Matthew 28:1 meant that the resurrection took 
place not on Sunday morning, but on Saturday evening, at or shortly after nightfall.^ 205 ' 
There was never full unanimity, however, with regard to the time of the resurrection. 

200. See DROBNER, "Calculation" (1981), 267-68. 

201. In his Oratio in Sabbatum Sanctum; KOTTER, Opera (1988), 135-36 (#26) [IT SPINELLI, 
Omelie (1980), 103-5]. 

202. For details and full references, see DROBNER, "Calculation" (1981), 267-68. 

203. Ibid., 264-66, 269-71. 

204. Gregory: ibid., 264. John: KOTTER, Opera (1988), 135 [IT SPINELLI, Omelie (1980), 104]. 

205. Ibid., 265, 269. 


Eustathius, responding to a claim of contradiction between the gospels on this point/ 206 ) 
responded: "That time is unknown. No creature knows it at all, and no tongue has 
mentioned it."( 207 > 

5. A summary 

There can be no doubt that the Christian apologists studied here accepted the 
scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the fundamental authority for their faith. 
The authority of the scriptures is often stated explicitly/ 208 ) their integrity is cunningly 
defended/ 209 ' and their contents are cited without embarrassment. And yet, Scripture 
tends to play a supportive rather than a leading role in the defence of the historicity 
of the death of Christ by crucifixion. Christian apologists learned that the Old 
Testament resnmo/i/a-catalogues which had developed in the context of Church's 
controversity with the Jews could not simply and unproblematically be reapplied to 
the Church's controversy with the Muslims. These "new Jews" not only had their own 
scripture, but very quickly developed their own criteria of scriptural authenticity and 
their own canons of historical inquiry -- criteria and canons which called all 
biblically-grounded Christian arguments into question. The response of Christian 
apologists to this situation was varied, but many of them decided that the most 
effective scriptural arguments for the death of Christ were ad hoc arguments drawn 
from the Muslims' scripture, the Qur'an. Biblical citations played a secondary role, 
filling in details, illustrating, and - perhaps most importantly - giving a sense of the 
thickness and intricacy of weave of the Christian tapestry of reality. 

206. Mingana chr. ar. 52, f. 74 r /8-10. 'AIT al-Tabari also perceived a contradiction here; see the 
response of al-Safl b. al-'Assal to 'All's al-Radd •aid. l-Nasara, MURQUS GIRGIS, Sahd'ih (1927-28), 

207. jU "Vj 4 Li jJ^L^Jl JL»* 4, j'a, 'p+i-* ^ t ^~»>ll i^'* <ji> Mingana chr. ar. 52, 
f. 101 v /5-7. 

208. For example, in the course of his defence of the Trinity Abu Qurrah wrote: ^ UJi iJI j-aJI 

»l i S j> iJJi ^ry^j ^ y) J^-'V L ! <j | -*-;V' ("Christianity is nothing but faith 

in the Gospel and that which follows it and the Law of Moses and the books of the prophets that 
are in between them"); BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 27/7-8. 

209. See especially the defence of 'Ammar al-Basri against the charge of tahrlf, in both the Kitab 
al-burhan, Ch. 4 (HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 41*-46* and see below, pp. 563-68) and the Kitab 
al-masail wa-l-agwibah, 11,5 (ibid., 130*-35*). 


C. The Issue of tasblh 
L Timothy's debate, II* 2 °> 

According to the Syriac report of their conversation, the caliph al-Mahdi 
responded to Timothy's recital of Old Testament predictions of the crucifixion by 
saying "He [God] made a likeness for them in this way,"* 211 ) virtually a repetition of 
his earlier citation of al-Nisd' (4):157 and its subbiha lahumP- xr > The caliph appears to 
have had an understanding of the subbiha lahum broad enough not only to 
accomodate explanations of Christ's escape from crucifixion, but also to be a response 
to Christian claims that the Old Testament predicts the passion of Christ. For the 
caliph, it seems, all evidence which Christians might advance to support their claim 
that Christ was crucified is but tasblh, an appearance with no basis in reality. 

Timothy responded to the caliph's objection with a dilemma-question. If the 
prophetic and apostolic claims about Christ's crucifixion are but tasblh, an appearance 
with no basis in reality, who then is the author of this tasblh, God or Satan? For 
Timothy, it is obvious that the author of this tasblh cannot be God: "it is entirely 
unfitting for God that He deceitfully show one thing in the place of another."* 213 ) 
Other apologists made the same point equally forcefully. In the context of a 
discussion of the Qur'an's subbiha lahum, Ibrahim al-Tabarani argued that to make 
God the subject of the verb sabbaha is to make Him the source of error (dalalah), to 
which the only fitting response is hasa -llahi! ("God forbid!") or ma'ada -llahi min 
hada l-qawl! ("God preserve us from such a statement!")/ 2 14 ) Passing from a Nestorian 
and a Melkite to a Jacobite, we find the monk Eustathius making exactly the same 
points:* 215 ) 

Jjj JJLa Ldi ^u> iLlj Hu^^L) (2) ti--i <lii) u) jLi; jl ill iU> 
(1) MS J^L. (2) MS ^i. (3) MS U-Jlo. 

210. For this section, see MINGANA, "Apology" (1928) 114/2/16-115/2/1 [ET 41-42]; PUTMAN/SAMIR, 
Eglise (1975), 37*-38* (#199-202); CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 142 (#32). 

211. Ll3 cn <nX [read <^S> * ] ,_o0 9 I CL*S> X> , MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 114/2/17. 

212. See above, p. 233, note 103. Comparison of the two texts allows the suggestion that what al-Mahdi 
actually said was l-Lx> ^_fJ The longer Arabic recension of the text mistranslates when it 

makes the prophets the (plural) subject of the verb: I JLSu* ^■„,. Il Ij-f-.-t \+*JLj »L_jSfl ji; 

PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 37* (#199). 

213. wa^o^=> ) q^_j 9 v i 9 ) cnS AJ ^ 19 J) CT\SS> \j> c^J * 

>p 9 \-.. >p ',JD ; MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 114/2/20-115/1/1. 

214. MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 390-93 (#279-84). 

215. Mingana chr. ar. 52, f. 155 v /2-5. 



God forbid that it be said, "He made something the likeness of something else." 
For if we say this we have described God as leading his servants into error (tadlll), and 
that He shows them an illusion (hayal) with no basis in reality, and then punishes them 
for that afterwards! 

Eustathius goes on to assert that it is the demons who make unreal likenesses and 
illusions (yatasabbihuna wa-yatahdylluna).* 21 ^ 

Therefore the tasblh may not be ascribed to God. But now, returning to the 
other horn of Timothy's dilemma, may it be ascribed to Satan? Timothy thinks not; 
one would then have to be prepared to admit that Satan not only played a role in the 
divine economy, but was also able to deceive the hawariyyun ("disciples," in the 
Qur'an's vocabulary) -- who, according to the New Testament, had the power to cast 
out demons!* 217 ) 

2. 'The Refutation of the One Who Denies the Crucifixion" 

The text al-Radd 'aid man gahada l-salb ("The Refutation of the One Who 
Denies the Crucifixion") displays continuity with, but also a good deal of development 
over, the simple dilemma-question posed by Timothy. In al-Radd the claim of tasblh 
to which the text responds is clearly that of the Muslim commentators: something or 
someone resembling Jesus was crucified in his place. Timothy's (two-fold) dilemma is 
developed into a four-{o\& inclusive disjunction: those who claim tasblh must admit 
that its author be either God, or Christ, or Satan, or the Jewish leaders/ 218 ) Each 
possibility is dealt with in turn. 

(a) God cannot be the author of the tasblh "because He does not induce error by 
means of an illusion.''^ 219 ) The author supports his claim that tasblh is not to be 
ascribed to God with a story known from the Old Testament and the Qur'an, that of 
God's sending Aaron to be a spokesman for Moses/ 220 ) When God sent Moses to 
Egypt, He did not loosen his tongue, despite his need to speak, but rather sent him 
help in the person of his brother, "in order to refute [any charge against Him of J 
tasbih."*- 221 ) The point appears to be that just as God did not deliver Moses from 
difficulty by investing him with an eloquence not his by nature, neither did He 
deliver Jesus from crucifixion by investing someone (or something) else with an 

216. Ibid., lines 5-7. 

217. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 115/1/6-10. 

218. The Arabic text of al-Radd is edited as Appendix II to the dissertation. For the present point, see 
below, p. 302 (#8). 

219. Ibid. (#9). 

220. Exodus 4:10-16; Ta Ha (20):25-32; al-Su'ara' (26):12-13; al-Qasas (28):34-35. 

221. See below, pp. 302-3 (#10). 


appearance not his by nature. 

(b) But neither can Christ be the author of the tasbih, for this would make 
nonsense of his career and of the mission of his apostles as understood by the Qur'an 
itself/ 222 ' 

He who by the witness of the Qur'an is blessed the day he was born, 
and the day he dies, 

and the day he is raised up alive [Maryam (19)31, 33] — 

how could he become in his death a maker of illusions (muhayyil), 
and in his rising a leader into error (mudallil), 
and through tasbih a seducer into deviation {mugawwi)! 

He who was sent in the footsteps of the prophets 
as admonition and guidance [al-Maidah (5):46] — 

how could he become the cause of straying from the truth {dalatp. 

He who is a sign unto men and a mercy [Maryam (19):21] — 

how could he be made similar to an illusion (tahyil)? 

(c) As for Satan, not only did he have no cause to put forth a person^ 223 ) to be 
crucified in Christ's place, but also his success in this deception would have required 
Christ's active co-operation, since he would have had to disappear at precisely the 
right moment and say nothing about the deception to his disciples! But in biblical 
fact Christ foretold his crucifixion, and after his resurrection displayed his wounds to 
Thomas and to all the disciples/ 224 ) 

(d) Finally, not only would the leaders of the Jews have had no reason to work 
such a deception (since the common people would have flocked to the living Jesus 
after having seen him -- apparently -- crucified and dead), neither would they have 
had the means, for how were they to find someone indistinguishable from Jesus to be 
crucified in his place? In fact, perfect doubles are not to be found in this world/ 225 ) 

3. A concluding comment 

There is nearly always a certain artificiality about the use of the dialectic 
device of disjunction, and that is surely the case here. No Muslim ever actually 
suggested that the active subject of the tasbih of al-Nisa' (4):157 was Satan, or Christ 
himself, or the leaders of the Jews. The commentators cited by al-Tabari all assumed 
as a matter of course that God was the active subject. Timothy or the anonymous 
Nestorian author of al-Radd may have impressed wavering Christians with their 

222. See below, pp. 303-4 (#12). 

223. Here, for the first time in the text, the word sahs, "person" is used as that which is crucified in 
Jesus' place. 

224. See below, pp. 304-5 (#13-14). 

225. See below, p. 305 (#15). 


suggested that the active subject of the tasbih of al-Nisa' (4):157 was Satan, or Christ 
himself, or the leaders of the Jews. The commentators cited by al-Tabari all assumed 
as a matter of course that God was the active subject. Timothy or the anonymous 
Nestorian author of al-Radd may have impressed wavering Christians with their 
dialectical skills, and this was without doubt a good part of their purpose in writing. 
It is doubtful, however, that they would have made much impression on a Muslim 
mutakallim. Both Timothy and the anonymous Nestorian fail to address the question: 
Why is it unthinkable that God should be the author of a deception in order to 
deliver His apostle? Why should human beings not exult in the devices of Him who 
is "the best of devisers"?* 226 * The reader here senses the presence of a 
Grunddifferenz between Christianity and Islam that the apologetic arguments thus far 
have failed to reach. 

D. Final Questions about al-Nisa' (4):157 

1. Timothy's debate, IV: completed argument, unanswered questions 

Having dealt with the caliph's suggestion that the Old Testament evidence for 
Christ's crucifixion could be dismissed with the Qur'anic subbiha lahum, Timothy 
believed that he had successfully demonstrated that crucifixion could be added at the 
head of his list of Qur'anically-established events in the career of Jesus, yielding the 
sequence: crucifixion, death, resurrection, ascension. He wound up his argument as 
follows:* 227 ) 

Now if the crucifixion was a false likeness (dumya kadaba)^ 22 ^ and from the 
crucifixion came death, then the death was also a false likeness. However, we say that 
from the death came the resurrection to life; therefore the resurrection and the life 
were a false likeness. From the resurrection came the ascension into heaven; [if the 
crucifixion was a false likeness,] all these things are spurious and unreal. 

But if the ascension into heaven was a reality (basrara) and not a likeness 
(bdumya), and the resurrection preceded the ascension into heaven, then the resurrection 
was also a reality and not a likeness. [And since the death preceded the resurrection, 
then the death was also a reality and not a likeness.] Now if the death was a reality 
and not a likeness, and the crucifixion preceded the death, then the crucifixion is 
therefore also a reality, and not a likeness or an illusion (hagagd).^ 229 ^ 

Timothy's argument has come full circle - and a neatly constructed circle it is, 
even if we have found weak points in its circumference. There are issues, however, 
which the circle simply does not enclose. Most notably, Timothy avoids passing any 

226. Jt/U\ j±\ Al 'Imrdn (3)54, al-Anfal (8):30. 

227. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 115/1/10-2/1. Phrases in square brackets are added to make 
Timothy's train of thought as clear as possible. 

228. Equivalent to <■ 

229. Equivalent to JL»-. 


direct judgement on al-Nisa' (4):157. Perhaps he did this out of his famous tact/ 230 ) 
not wishing to cause offense by calling the Qur'anic verse false/ 231 ) or perhaps he 
simply had no opportunity to present a Christian reading of the verse. In the 
following paragraphs, we shall take note of some writers who grappled more directly 
with al-Nisa' (4):157 than did Timothy. 

2. Contradicting al-Nisa' (4):157 

The outright rejection of the reliability of the Qur'anic text is one possibility 
for dealing with al-Nisa' (4):157, although, of course, a dangerous one for a Christian 
apologist, who would have to take refuge in anonymity (e.g. "al-Kindi," who, however, 
did not react specifically to al-Nisa' (4):157)< 232 > or in insinuation (e.g. 'Ammar al-Basrl 
in a passage to be studied later)/ 233 ) There were, however, a few well known 
members of the Islamic community who explicitly called into question the reliability 
of the Qur'anic text, citing al-Nisa' (4):157 in support of their positions. For example, 
Abu 1-Husayn Ahmad b. Yahya b. Ishaq, known as Ibn al-Rawandi (d. mid-9th c.)/ 234 ) 
wrote the Kitab al-zumurrudP^ a critique of the idea of prophecy in general, and of 
prophecy in Islam in particular. Among his arguments is that the Qur'an is wrong in 
denying the crucifixion of Christ in the face of the overwhelming consensus of 
(mutually hostile!) Jews and Christians with respect to its historicity/ 236 ) Some years 
later, the celebrated physician, alchemist and philosopher Abu Bakr Muhammad b. 

230. The best example of Timothy's tact is his response to the caliph's question, "What do you say 
about Muhammad?" His "Muhammad walked in the path of the prophets" (with precise 
specification of the sense in which he did so) is a splendid bit of inter-religious diplomacy, 
simultaneously evasive and satisfying. See MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 133/1/16-134/2/17 [ET 
61-62]; PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 31*-33* (#158-68); CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 150-52 
(#46-50), with comment at pp. 123-24. 

231. We might notice that like Timothy, Ibrahim al-Tabarani never explicitly comes to grips with the 
Qur'anic "they did not slay him, neither crucified him," although, as we saw above (p. 130), he 
does offer a Christian interpretation of the subbiha lahum; see MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 
390-95 (#276-88). 

232. For al-Kindi's critique of the Qur'an see TARTAR, "Dialogue" (1977), 101-132 [FT idem, Dialogue 
(1985), 175-206]. 

233. See below, pp. 283-86. 

234. On him, see KRAUS, "Ibn al-Rawandi" (1938), and VAJDA, "Ibn al-Rawandr (1971). The date of 
Ibn al-Rawandi's death is variously given as in the mid- or late-ninth century, but the most 
reliable report appears to be that of al-Mas'udi, who states that he died at mid-century aged 36 or 
40; MAS'UDI, Murug (1861-76), VII, 237. Vajda points out that he is already cited in a work of 
al-Muqammis (floruit last third of the ninth century). 

235. GAL S.I, 340-41; GAS I, 620-21. The text is preserved only through citations in the Magalis of 
the Isma'Ili al-Mu'ayyad Sirazi (d. 1077), ed. KRAUS, "Ketzergeschichte" (1933). 

236. Ibid., 104. 


Zakariya' al-Razi (d. 925)< 237 > made the same argument in his Kitab mahariq 
al-anbiya'P 3 v one of two books in which he argued that religion and philosphy were 

3. Reinterpreting al-Nisa' (4):157 

The usual Christian apologetic procedure with respect to al-Nisa' (4):157 was to 
propose a Christian reading of the Qur'anic text. Two such readings were especially 
common, received an early hearing in certain Islamic circles, and are periodically 
"discovered" anew. Both are found in al-Radd 'aid man gahada l-salb, to which we 
now turn. 

(a) The humanity, not the divinity was killed 

The most obvious Christian reading of al-Nisa' (4):157 exploits the 
humanity/divinity distinction in the one Christ/ 239 ^ In the Syriac text of Timothy's 
discussion of the crucifixion, it is stated that Christ was killed babsar ("in the 
flesh"),( 24 °) while a corresponding passage from the beta recension of the dialogue of 
Ibrahim al-Tabarani reads "the Jews only crucified him according to his humanity."'- 2 ^ 
"The Apocalypse/Legend of Bahlra" explicitly applies the humanity/divinity distinction 
to the interpretation of al-Nisa (4):157:< 242 > 

237. On this great scholar (known in the West as Rhazes), see KRAUS/PINES, "al-Razi" (1936). 

238. GAL S.I, 417-18. The work is partially preserved in the response of the Isma'ili Abu Hatim 
al-Razi, Kitab a'lam al-nubuwwah (see GAS I, 573), composed in ca. 934. An edition of these 
fragments is KRAUS, "Raziana II" (1936); the passage concerning al-Nisa (4):157 is found at p. 366. 
I have not been able to consult the complete edition of the Kitab a'lam al-nubuwwah by S. 
al-SAWY and Gh. R. AAVANI, Teheran: 1977. 

239. For an extensive discussion of the apologetic use of this distinction, see below, pp. 246-53. 

240. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 115/2/11-12. 

241. -C^Ll, i^+Jl it j 1 r -lii; Vatican syr. 608, f. 82 v . The reading binasutihi (the preposition is absent 
from Paris ar. 215, f. 61 v , while the text of Vatican ar. 136, f. 108 v , is here deficient) is supported 
by Vollers's GT of his tenth-century manuscript: "so haben die Juden ihn nach seiner 
menschlichen Natur gekreuzigt"; VOLLERS, "Religionsgesprach (1908), 58. 

242. Paris ar. 215, f. 161 r /15-161 v /2, reproduced (inaccurately) in GOTTHEIL, "Legend" (1900-1), 60-61 
[ET (1903), 1381 

We recall that "The Apocalypse/Legend of Bahira" claims that a Christian was responsible 
for much of the Qur'an and many Islamic practices, which originally had the aim of instilling 
Christian beliefs, including belief in the crucifixion of Christ. In addition to Bahira's explanation 
of al-Nisa' (4):157, note his explanation of al-Ma'idah (5):64, "The Jews have said, 'God's hand is 
fettered'": these are the Jews who mocked Christ while he was on the cross, demanding that he 
come down and save himself (ibid. (1900-1), 62-63 [ET (1903), 140]). As for the Friday midday 
congregational prayers, according to Bahira they observe the time of Adam's creation and of 
humanity's salvation in the crucifixion of Christ (ibid. (1900-1), 75 [ET (1903), 148]). See also 


cjJ^UI [f. 161 v ] Jjl* V JUJI <uiL- Ij^k, 13 ^!] LJ 


(1) MS Y (2) MS o^w. (3) MS omit. 

And I [Bahira] also wrote for him [Muhammad]: 'They did not slay him, neither 
crucified him, but subbiha lahum." I mean by that that Christ did not die in the 
nature of the divinity, but only died in the nature of his humanity. When they 
wanted to break his legs [while he was] upon the cross as [they had done with] the two 
thieves, it appeared to them (subbiha lahum) that he was dead, so that they did not 
break a bone of his. [This happened] in order to fulfill the scripture that says: "Not a 
bone of his shall be broken" [Psalm 34:20; John 19:36]. 

In al-Radd 'aid man gahad al-salb we read:< 243 > 

The meaning of "Christ" among Christians comprises the nature (gawhar) of God and 
the nature of man, meaning that he is Anointer and Anointed, divinity and humanity, 
according to the the union which they affirm and believe. Thus he was killed in his 
humanity, but not killed nor crucified in his divinity, although "it appeared to them" 
(subbiha lahum) that his affair had come to nought, and his precepts (sunan) to 

The use of the humanity/divinity distinction to explain al-Nisd' (4):157 became 
traditional within the Arabic-speaking church.< 244 > Furthermore, as we noted when 
discussing Massignon's thesis,< 245 ' this sort of discourse made sense to those Muslims 
(Isma'ilTs, Sufis, philosophers) who operated with a body/(immortal or immortalized) 
soul distinction. From the tenth century, for example, we have the account of Christ's 
death from Letter 44 of the Risd'il al-lhwan al-Safa' ("Letters of the 'Brethren of 
Purity'"), which straightforwardly states that Christ's humanity (ndsiit) was crucified 
and buried, though he in his personal self ascended to the throne of the Father, thence 
always and everywhere to be with the disciples.^ 246 ) 

pp. 116 and 118 (note 118) above. 

243. For the Arabic text, see below, pp. 299-300 (#3). 

244. For example, Paul of Antioch (late 12th century) uses it in his popular apology addressed to 
Muslims: P. KHOURY, Paul (1964), 73* (#38). 

245. See pp. 108-9 above. 

246. See CHARFI, Radd (1986), 382 [Arabic text and comment]; MARQUET, "Ihwan" (1982), 144-46 [FT 
and comment]; ROBINSON, Christ (1991), 55-57 [ET and comment]. 


(b) Intentions and actual results; Al 'Imran (3):169 

The text of al-Radd goes on to give a second possible explanation of "they did 
not slay him, neither crucified him." The intention of the Jews in putting Jesus to 
death had been to deter people from following him and to put an end to his ways and 
precepts. But the actual result of their action, after Jesus' resurrection and 
glorification was the precise opposite of their intention!* 247 ) 

[T]heir action became a cause of the spread of his affair in all the earth, and of the 
loftiness of his prestige in the world. Thus it is as if they killed him and "did not 
kill him," crucified him and "did not crucify him." But "it appeared to them" (subbika 
lahum) that through their action his way (sarl'ah) had come to nought, and his precepts 
(sunan) to dissolution. 

al-Radd goes on the cite Al 'Imran (3):169 - ill J. . ... ^ I ^iJ jjJlJI ( j-.-..>«J V 
d jij ji ^.fjj jllp- *L*-1 Jj \z\ y>\ - in support of this interpretation:* 248 ) 

This discourse agrees with the statement of the Qur'an, "Count not those who were 
killed in God's way as dead, but rather living with their Lord, by Him provided." It 
testified that they were killed, and yet are not dead but rather alive, because they 
"were killed in God's way." Likewise Christ was not killed because he was killed "in 
God's way," and was not crucified because he was crucified "in God's way." 

This line of argument, interestingly enough, is echoed in Isma'ili defences of 
the Qur'anic revelation against the attacks of Ibn al-Rawandl and Rhazes that we met 
with earlier/ 249 ) In his Kitab a'ldm al-nubuwwah, Abu Hatim Ahmad b. Hamdan b. 
Ahmad al-Warsani al-Laytl al-Razi (d. 933) responded to Rhazes, on the authority of 
one of his teachers, that al-Nisa' (4):157 does not deny the crucifixion; since Jesus died 
a martyr, his death must be interpreted in terms of Al 'Imran (3):169.( 25 °) Precisely the 
same response is given to Ibn al-Rawandi in the 520th maglis of al-Mu'ayyad SIrazi 
(d. 1077).c 2 5i) 

247. For the Arabic text, see below, pp. 300-301 (#5-6). 

248. For the Arabic text see below, p. 301 (#7). 

249. Above, pp. 141-42. On the Isma'ilis, see IVANOW, "Isma'iliya" (1938), who considers the two 
writers about to be mentioned among "the leading Isma'ili philosophers, the real founders of their 
doctrine" (p. 99). 

250. KRAUS, "Raziana II" (1936), 366 only reproduces the objection of Rhazes. The response of Abu 
Hatim is summarized in MASSIGNON, "Christ" (1932), 534. 

251. KRAUS, "Ketzergeschichte" (1933), 104-5. 


4. A concluding comment 

We have now seen that the whole of al-Nisd' (4):157 was judged by Christian 
apologists to be susceptible of Christian interpretation. "They did not slay him, 
neither crucified him" could be interpreted either in terms of the divinity/humanity 
distinction in the one Christ, or in terms of Al 'Imran (3):169. As for subbiha lahum, 
it could mean that the crucifixion "was problematic for" Christ's crucifiers, or that "it 
appeared to them" that Christ had been effectively done away with. Thus it was that 
Christian apologists attempted to take words that the generality of Muslims had 
always understood as a denial of Christ's crucifixion, and absorb them into the 
Christian understanding of God's dealings with humankind. If these few words could 
so be absorbed, however, the Qur'anic understanding of salvation history which lay 
behind them could not be. The next section will help us to see this more clearly. 

III. Christ Was Too Honored before God to Undergo Crucifixion! 

The immediate response of the caliph al-Mahdi to Timothy's argument for the 
historicity of the crucifixion was: "Christ was too honored before God for him to be 
delivered into the hands of the Jews, that they might crucify him!"/ 252 ) The text of 
the Timothy-al-Mahdl debate does not, unfortunately, present the reasoning behind the 
caliph's objection. One bit of explanation comes from the objection in the form in 
which it came into the beta-recension of the dialogue of Ibrahim al-Tabarani: to 
confess the crucifixion is to make Christ mardul, "something despicable"/ 253 ) 

252. , — , ^ J_T3 5 u cA ^jp ) CTl\ \ \ _a O ^ 0 A- * \o a\ 'i£l^O 

cn^j f>\^£LJ ) L-AJ |_, 5 o ffV-* ; MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 115/2/2-3. The 

Syriac > ^tO\ .^D . . . ^o^OO surely represents the Arabic j' fjf*, which is what we find 
(a) in the shorter Arabic recension of the dialogue (CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 142 (#33)): 

i_H?J' £^ o' *&l ^jl* fjf' jlT £- Jl ji ("Christ was too honored before God 

for Him to let the Jews crucify and kill him"); (b) and in the Timothy-derived material in the 
beta recension of the dialogue of Ibrahim al-Tabarani; see below. The form of the objection 
found in the longer Arabic recension (PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 38* (#203)), £~_Jl tS ^s. 5j 
a > L- J. _ J J^jJl -t-.- L .-; j£j JJ nil (jjj L j£j> jlT ("Jesus Christ was honored before God, thus He 
would not deliver him into the hands of the Jews so that they kill him"), mechanically but 
incorrectly translates the Syriac participle t r~> . with the Arabic participle » J>u>. 

253. Edited from Vatican ar. 136, f. 108 v [V], Vatican syr. 608, f. 82 r [Si and Paris ar. 215, f. 61 v [P]; cf. 
VOLLERS, "Religionsgesprach" (1908), 58. 


3 >£JI (3) a^JI ^Ju\ ™ r J\ ^Jb 1 0\ '"j, ill f /i jlT 

(1) S omit. (2) V -uJ^. P ^ju. (3) V +_,. (4) S *i y \.*\. P 4> kiJ. (5) P V,. 
(6) P J*>w. 


Christ was too honored before God for Him to hand him over into the hands of the 
unbelieving Jews, that they might crucify him. So do not make Christ something 

And in his Kitab al-burhan, 'Ammar al-Basri asks:< 254 > 


How, when Christ is [only] a prophet for them, do they accuse us of having 
disparaged him by mentioning that he was crucified, saying, "He was too honored 
before God for Him to let him be crucified!" 

To confess the crucifixion is therefore to deny the honor in which God holds Christ, 
to disparage him, to make him something despicable/ 255 ) 

The Nestorian texts in which this accusation is recorded are united in 
presenting a Christian response which draws upon the Qur'an's own testimony: many 
prophets before Jesus had been killed!< 256 > So Timothy: "The prophets have generally 
been killed by the Jews, therefore it is not the case that everyone who is killed by the 
Jews is despicable (maslay) and contemptible (sit\" {251) 

Detailed stories of the deaths of the prophets are not related in the Qur'an, but 
some had long been familiar to Jews and Christian^ 258 ) and came to be told in Islamic 

254. Chapter 8; HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 80V1-2. 

255. The "student" who represents an Islamic viewpoint in Question 10 of the Scholion of Theodore bar 
Koni adds that the crucifixion would be shame ( | j ) for Christ and for the Christians: 
| 9 Q-J \ Q i -O i J \ — > 9 \->\^ )J> ^ » ^ ("it is not fitting that we confess a 
crucified man"); SCHER, Bar Koni (1912), 271/15-18. 

256. al-Baqarah (2):61, 91; Al 'Imran (3):21, 112, 181; al-Nisa (4):155. Note that the assertion in al-Nisa 
(4):155 comes in the very thought unit, verses 155-61, which includes the denial of Christ's 
crucifixion (v. 157). 

257. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 115/2/8-10. The longer Arabic recension of the debate renders 



circles as well. In his Kitab al-masd'il wa-l-agwibah 'Ammar al-Basri relates, in a 
fashion suggesting that the stories should have come as no surprise to his Muslim 
reader, how Isaiah was sawn in two, Jeremiah stoned to death, and Zechariah( 259 > 
killed "as a sacrifice between the altar and the sanctuary.''^ 260 ) In his response to the 
Muslim accusation that Christians disparage Jesus, however, 'Ammar does not mention 
these Old Testament figures. He gives just one example, that of John the Baptist, 
Yahya b. Zakariyya/ 261 ) 


What on earth do they say about Yahya b. Zakariyya, since they acknowledge that he 
was beheaded, and his head given to a dancing girl who asked that it be given her?^ 262 ) 
Is it because of his contemptible estate (hawdnihi) before God that He abandoned him 
so that these things happened to him? Nay, they confess his honored estate 
(karamatihi) before God. 

'Ammar's choice of the example of John the Baptist is rather clever. In the 
Qur'an, the benediction pronounced upon John - rjj . . . 4J1P ^^L-j ("Peace be 

upon him ... the day he dies")( 263 > -- is paralleled by that pronounced by Jesus upon 
himself: CjyA . . . ^Le ^*>L-JI^ ("Peace be upon me . . . the day I die")/ 264 ) If 
Muslims acknowledge that John, despite the benediction pronounced upon him the 
day of his death, was executed, why should they not acknowledge the Christian claim 
that Christ was similarly executed? 

As convincing as this argument might seem to Christian apologists, it misses 
the Qur'anic point of the objection/ 265 ) In the Qur'an, Christ is not simply another of 

259. Not the writing prophet but the son of Jehoiada mentioned in 2 Chronicles 24:20-22 and Matthew 

260. HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 247*/ll-15. The martyrdom of Isaiah is recorded in the Talmud 
(Sanhedrin 10), and all three martyrdoms were well known in the patristic period among 
Christians; see SCHERMANN, Legenden (1907), especially pp. 74-89, 105-8. The story of the 
martyrdom of Isaiah, at least, was well known among Muslims, having been related by Wahb and 
Ibn Ishaq. See TABARI, Tdrlh (1960-69), I, 536-37 [ET of Ibn Ishaq's report: NEWBY, 
Prophet (1989), 1801 

261. HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 80V2-5. 

262. The story of the death of John the Baptist is not related in the Qur'an, but was widely known 
among Muslims. For Ibn Ishaq's version of the story, see NEWBY, Prophet (1989), 202. 

263. Maryam (19)15. 

264. Maryam (19)33. 

265. For what follows, see BIJLEFELD, "Prophet" (1969), esp. 16-23. 


the prophets (anbiya'), many of whom, including John, were indeed killed. Rather, he 
is one of God's apostles (rusul). The appropriate context for the interpretation of the 
story of 'Isa b. Maryam is therefore the Qur'anic witness to the mission of the 
apostles, including Noah, Lot, Abraham/ 266 ) Ishmael, Moses (and Aaron), Hud, Salih, 
Su'ayb, and, last and by no means least, Muhammad. 

The typical literary form by which the Qur'an tells of the mission of the 
apostles is the punishment story,*- 267 ) in which "a messenger [rasul] is sent to his 
people; he delivers his message, but is disbelieved and the message rejected; the 
punishment of God then falls upon the people for their unbelief.''^ 268 ) To this 
description of the genre we must add: and God saves his rasiil, both from the 
murderous intentions of those who disbelieve his message and from the punishment 
which falls upon them/ 269 ) Thus Noah is saved from those who would stone him, and 
from the universal flood/ 270 ) Abraham is kept safe, though cast into the fire/ 271 ' Lot 
is delivered from the destruction of his city/ 272 ) Moses and those he leads are 
delivered from Pharoah's host at the sea/ 273 > Salih is saved from those who plot to 
kill him/ 274 ) Throughout the punishment stories, the second and fourth forms of the 
verb ngy, "to deliver," ring out with regularity/ 275 ) in every case, God delivered His 
apostle, and those who obeyed him. And thus Muhammad, the apostle to whom these 
stories were revealed, is to take heart from them/ 276 ) 

That the story of 'Isa b. Maryam is to be ranged among those just mentioned, 
including the story of Muhammad, is clear from the striking verse Al 'Imran (3): 54: 
jj^LJI _ /tr >- (4tl ("And they devised, and God devised, and God is 

the best of devisers"), which immediately precedes verse 55 concerning 'Isa's 

266. Abraham is not directly termed an apostle in the Qur'an, but a comparison of his story to that of 
the other apostles makes clear that he belongs in the list. See al-' Ankabut (29):18 and 
al-Tawbah (9):70. 

267. See WATT, Introduction (1970), 127-35. The most important Qur'anic compilations of punishment 
stories are: al-A'raf (7):59-102; Hud (ll):25-95; al-Muminun (23):23-49; al-Su'ara (26):10-190; 
al-Naml (27):7-58; al- Ankabut (29):14-40; and al-Saffat (37):75-148. 

268. WATT, Introduction (1970), 135. 

269. There is one Qur'anic text that speaks clearly of the killing of apostles, Al 'Imran (3H83, but it 
would seem to be the exception that proves the rule. As for al-Baqarah (2):87 and al-Maidah 
(5):70, byisJu may best be translated "they wish to kill." See BIJLEFELD, "Prophet" (1969), 22-23 
(note 97). 

270. E.g., al-Su'ara (26):116-20. 

271. E.g., al- Anbiya (21):68-70. For Ibn Ishaq's expansion of the story, see NEWBY, Prophet (1989), 

272. E.g., al-Su'ara (26):169-73. 

273. E.g., al-Su'ara (26):52-66. 

274. E.g., al-Naml (27):48-50. 

275. al-A'raf (7):72, 83; Hud (11):58, 66, 94; al-Muminun (23):28; al-Su'ara' (26):65, 119, 170; al-Naml (27):57; 
al- Ankabut (29):15, 24, 32; al-Saffat (37):76, 134; and al-Qamar (54>.34. 

276. Hud (11):120. 


wafah and raf, the object of much discussion earlier. Close parallels to this verse 

(a) al-Anfal (8):30, tiJ J ^ r >J /\ .4,1? 5 . /\ ■ 1 I^Lf ^jJl iL ilj 
jjji^LJI <ojIj tiiiil jjj-^w^jj ("And when the unbelievers were devising 
against thee, to confine thee, or slay thee, or to expel thee, and were devising, and 
God was devising; and God is the best of devisers"), concerning God's protection of 

(b) al-Naml (27):50: OjyA; N ^aj it ^ b ^Cj \ ^ I ("And they devised 
a device, and We likewise devised a device, while they were not aware"), speaking of 
God's delivery of Salih from those who were plotting to kill him. 

(c) al-Tariq (86):15-16: tj-i' JlS\j \<±-£ jjJ^SL ^_$Jl ("They are devising guile, 
and I am devising guile"), again concerning God's protection of Muhammad from the 
unbelievers. The use of the word kayd ("guile, deception") in this verse leads me to 

(d) al-Anbiya' (21):70 (or al-Saffat (37):98): j^^-a^fl ^LlU^J o IjjIjU 
( jJuL^I) ("They desired to outwit him; so We made them the worse losers (lower 
ones)"), referring to those who attempted to burn Abraham. 

As was the case with Abraham, with Salih, and with Muhammad, so also was the case 
with Tsa b. Maryam: whatever the plots devised by the unbelievers to do away with 
God's apostle, God thwarts them and rescues His apostle in His own cunning and 
surprising way, for He is "the best of devisers." 

Perhaps this discussion of the background for the assertion that Jesus was "too 
honored before God" to undergo crucifixion can be taken one step further by asking: 
What is it about the specifically apostolic vocation, as opposed to the more general 
prophetic vocation, that must needs involve the inviolability of the apostle? Bijlefeld 
has pointed to the answer^ 277 ) 

The rasul is a witness and warner to his own people, who therefore will have no 
excuse on judgment day .... [H]e is God's 'representative' to his people, and as such 
he has a great responsibility as well as a tremendous authority .... Noteworthy ... is 
the clear assurance that God will protect and rescue His rasul . . . , because the defeat 
of His representative would be a victory over Him — and that is evidently impossible. 
No matter how strong the resistance is, the ultimate victory is not with men but with 
God .... Prophets have been killed, but the Apostle must triumph in order to 
manifest on earth the triumph of God. 

Earlier in this chapter we spoke of the intra-systemic consistency of the 
Christian biblical/dogmatic understanding of salvation history, with the cross of Christ 
at the center. We see now that at precisely that central point, the Christian 
understanding of salvation history is at odds with a Qur'anic understanding of of the 
ways of God with humankind which has its own integrity, depth, and density. In a 
Christian construal of the biblical materials, Jesus of Nazareth is the limit and goal of 

277. BIJLEFELD, "Prophet" (1969), 19-20. 


a sequence of prophets in which there is an ever greater identification of the prophet 
with the message he bears, an identification he can only suffer. The sequence that 
leads from the earliest biblical prophets to Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the 
mysterious Servant of Yahweh reaches its culmination in the crucified Son of God, 
Jesus of Nazareth/ 278 ' For this Christian understanding of the history of prophecy, a 
Jesus who escaped death would be incomprehensible, a great rend in the fabric of 
biblical/dogmatic reality. In the Qur'an's presentation of God's dealings with 
humankind, by contrast, 'Isa b. Maryam takes his place in a sequence of apostles who, 
being cunningly delivered by God from the plots of their enemies, are themselves 
signs of God's victory, and heartening examples for the one in whom God's victory 
will be made especially manifest, Muhammad, and for the community that hearkens 
to him. For this understanding of prophetic/apostolic history, a crucified 'Isa could 
only be a shadow cast on the victory of God. 

278. A classic description of this "trend" in the biblical understanding of prophecy is VON RAD, 
Theology (1965), II. 

Chapter Four 



In the previous chapter we examined the disagreement between Christians and 
Muslims with respect to the facticity of Christ's crucifixion, a disagreement that we 
have come to see as nearly inevitable given the very different tendencies of the 
biblical and Qur'anic stories of God's dealings with humankind through prophets and 
apostles. The apologist, however, cannot accept disagreement and incomprehension as 
finally inevitable; instead, disagreement acts as a spur to the search for common 
ground. For the arabophone Christian apologists, the disagreement between Christians 
and Muslims about the work and person of Jesus Christ presented a clear challenge: 
to attempt to construct from the biblical materials - and, to whatever extent possible, 
Qur'anic materials as well -- a narrative of God's dealings with humankind that would 
at once be Christian and that would - somehow - commend itself to Muslims. With 
respect to the crucifixion of Christ, such narrative-construction would leave to one 
side the (rather futile) dispute about its sheer facticity, and concentrate instead on 
attempting to explain its salvation-historical necessity. 

I have spoken here of a narrative of God's dealings with humankind because, 
of course, there are a multitude of ways in which the diverse biblical materials, seen 
through the lenses of the Church's doctrinal traditions and from the angles imposed by 
apologetic considerations, may be shaped into some sort of whole. Any such 
Christian narrative, however, will have certain features. It will tell the story of 
redemption, that is, of humankind's movement or possibility of movement from a 
state of deprivation to a state described by the word "salvation." Central to this 
narrative will be the story of Jesus. And the climax of the narrative, the point where 
the movement (or its possibility) from deprivation to salvation becomes reality, will 
be some particular aspect or event(s) of the story of Jesus, traditionally his Incarnation 



and/or his passion and death/ 1 ) 

As Michael Root has pointed out in a recent essay, the soteriological task of 
Christian theology lies precisely in creating "narrative redescriptions of the story of 
Jesus . . . that make clear how it is the story of redemption."^) He gives the following 
example illustrating both how these narrative redescriptions work, and how varied 
they can be: 

There is a sense in which Anselm's Cur Deus Homo and Gregory of Nyssa's 
Catechetical Orations contain descriptions of the same event, the death of Christ. 
Nevertheless, they find redemptive meaning in that death only by redescribing it as the 
voluntary payment of a debt owed to the honor of God or as the deceptive surrender 
to the Devil in exchange for the souls of humanity. The redescription is the 
soteriological explanation. The explanation succeeds only when it convincingly 
reconstitutes in its own image that which it explains. If I accept and understand the 
redescription of the story of Jesus' death as the story of the repayment of an infinite 
debt, then I have had the soteriological significance of that death shown to me/ 3 ) 

It was the task of the Christian apologists in the Ddr al-lslam to find narrative 
redescriptions of the story of Jesus Christ "and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2) that, 
as the key to the whole history of God's dealings with humankind, might meet with 
understanding and acceptance among Muslims. As we shall see, their redescriptions 
range from those in which echoes of Gregory may be heard to one in which Anselm 
is anticipated by some three centuries. 

I. Redemption as Christ's Victory over Satan 

A. Christ's Defeat of Satan in the Arabic Christian Apologies 

1. "On the Triune God 1 *: Satan's ascendancy and overthrow 

One of the most striking Arabic "narrative redescriptions" of the story of Jesus 
is found in the oldest Arabic Christian apologetic text in our possession: the 
misnamed Fi tatllt Allah al-wahid ("On the Triune God") of Sinai ar. 154, an 

1. The past century has seen considerable debate over the "and/or" of this last sentence. For the Greek 
Fathers, was the Incarnation in itself a saving event (so Harnack), or was it simply the background to 
the concrete saving acts of Christ's passion and death (so Riviere)? J. -P. Jossua has argued that 
neither view does justice to the the thought of the Greek Fathers. Rather, for them the Incarnation 
is itself the source of salvation working through and only through Christ's death and resurrection. 
See JOSSUA, Salut (1968), esp. 33-44. 

2. ROOT, "Soteriology" (1989), 267. These "narrative redescriptions" are what have traditionally been 
labelled "atonement theories," but Root argues that the label is incorrect: "explanations of soteriology 
are not theoretical" (ibid., p. 276), but rather narrative in character. 

3. Ibid, 267. 


eighth-century text preserved in an early ninth-century manuscript/ 4 ' At the very 
beginning of the anonymous author's apology for the Incarnation^ 5 ' he gives the reader 
an outline of the way in which he will tell the story of Jesus as the story of 
redemption, announcing that he will explain^ 6 ' 


. . . how God sent his Word and Light as mercy and guidance to the people, 

and through him was gracious to them; 
and why he came down from heaven as salvation to Adam and his descendants 

from the Devil and his darkness and misguidance/ 7 ' 

The plot elements are set. The deprivation from which humanity is to be saved is the 
"darkness" and "misguidance" of the Devil in which it has been ensnared since the 
time of Adam. "Salvation" will come through the Devil's defeat at the hands of the 
incarnate Word of God. 

Accordingly, the author begins his narrative with the story of the creation of 
Adam and of Eve, their fall through the Devil's guile, and their expulsion from the 
Garden - a biblical story with a Qur'anic parallel in al-Baqarah (2):35-36. The author 
is faithful to specifically Christian teaching, however, in asserting that Adam and Eve 
bequeathed rebellion, sin, and death to their descendants in such a way that no one 
-- "neither a prophet, nor anyone else" - was able to deliver them/ 8 ' He then turns to 

4. For the section that follows, I am indebted to Fr. Samir Khalil Samir for making available to me his 
yet unpublished edition of the treatise. 

5. The section to be summarized here is found in Sinai ar. 154, ff. 102 v /15-108 r /12; GIBSON, Treatise 
(1899), 78*/22-84*/ll, with lacunae; Samir's unpublished edition, #110-271. In the discussion below I 
shall give references to Sinai ar. 154, with references to Mrs. Gibson's historically important but now 
inadequate edition in parentheses. The Arabic texts reproduced below reflect my own reading of the 
MS, and editorial notes refer solely to it. 

6. f. 102 v /15-19 (p. 78V23-25). 

7. The zulmah and dalalah ("darkness and misguidance") of Satan mirror the pair nur and huda ("light 
and guidance") with which the Word has just been described, and which the Quran predicates of 
revelation. See, e.g., al-Maidah (5):15— 16, 44, 46 referring respectively to the revelations bestowed upon 
Muhammad, Moses, and Jesus. 

While dalalah is normally translated "error," in the present context it has an active, causative 
sense, the exact opposite of "guidance." 

8. o_j_«Jlj i_k>Jlj 4-.-.a.«-.JI j_» ^iJ oji tJ a±>^ j' [■•ii'l t^l-Jl x>-'\ ^, U:..., ^J, 
f. 103 r /15— 17 (p. 79V12-14). The author does not venture an explanation of how Adam and Eve 
bequeathed rebellion, sin, and death to their descendants. 


the subsequent Old Testament history. Emphasizing humankind's stubborn inclination 
towards the worship and the works of Satan, he weaves into his narrative precisely 
those biblical stories that figure most prominently among the Qur'an's "punishment 
stories": God's sending the flood upon unbelieving humanity, while saving Noah and 
those with him in the ark; God's sending the rain of fire and brimstone upon the 
inhabitants of Sodom for their abominable deeds, while delivering Lot and his 
daughters; God's drowning of pharoah and his hosts at the sea, while bringing the 
children of Israel through it to safety/ 9 ' 

But despite the mercy of God to the children of Israel, continues the author, 
they returned to the worship of Satan - this despite the mission of the prophets and 
apostles/ 10 ) 

tp^lT ^LJI J^j Jj*I ^ jJLp jLLJUl eJiii 


.-Oil jj3 n t JLjj-j^ ^Ut JL*Jlj 

iill *Lpl (2) l y^U a Lf lp J 




(1) MS ^Jjj. (2) MS jj^Ju. 


1 And Satan gained ascendancy over the children of Israel and over all the people, 
impoverished them, 
oppressed them, 

and took them as slaves, separated from God. 

9. For the Quranic references see above, p. 148, notes 270, 272, and 273. 

10. f. 105 r /9-16 (81V17-22; #175-79). 


2 And he seduced them, 

led them astray into every wicked deed, 

incited the people against God's prophets and apostles, 
and blinded their hearts, 
so as not to comprehend the speech of God's prophets; 

3 and some they killed, 

and some they stoned, 

and some they called liars. 

4 And the work and the misguidance of the Devil 

appeared among every community and nation . . . 

Humanity's condition was desperate, but God was merciful. Responsive to the 
pleas of His prophets who recognized that no one from among the people could save 
Adam's descendants, God decided to act Himself for their salvation. But rather than 
simply undoing the Devil by divine fiat - a defeat in which "the Devil would not 
have experienced distress or regret," given God's omnipotence!^ J ) -- God decided to 
overthrow the Devil "by means of this humanity which had been seduced and deemed 
weak."* 12 ) And therefore God sent His Word, who "put on this weak, defeated 
humanity from Mary the Good, whom God had chosen 'above the women of the 
worlds,' and veiled himself through her."( n ) (Once again we note the Qur'anic 
echoes/ 14 ) which are heard in connection with Mary again some paragraphs later when 
the author relates the story of the annunciation/ 15 )) Veiled in humanity, the Word 
overcame the Devil/ 16 ) 

IL oUJlj - aj Uj\ a>w ^^Li J, f. 106 v /18-19 (83V10). The same idea is found in al-Burhan of Peter 
of Bayt Ra's (CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61), I, 127 (#225)). Indeed, there are many parallels to 
"On the Triune God" in Book I of al-Burhan, where the story of redemption is told with more 
theological sophistication but less narrative verve. 

12. A } ^oJl oLJVl 104,, f. 106 v /9-10 (p. 83*/3). 

13. \+, t jLjUl .L-J ^jl* il UUU ,s\ il.\]n\\ ^jj. j_. JJt i . Il Ji . *Ji ll jL-J^I 11a ^--Jj, 
f. 106 v /13-15 (p. 83*/5-6). 

14. Cf. Al 'Imran (3)37. 

15. Mary's response to Gabriel's greeting, * j^-t^ ~ ^-"--i ^ _> tJ-l_> 0>£j 1^* jS\ ("How 

shall I have a son, and no man has touched me?" f. 107 v /2 (p. 83V13-14)) is an almost exact citation 
of Maryam (19):20. 

16. ff. lO7 v /15-108 r /4 (missing in Gibson's edition). 


'oLJJI [f. 108 r ] 

(1) MS j>-u~. 


1 He saved Adam and his descendants from the Devil's misguidance, 

and raised Adam from his stumbling. 

2 He healed his wound, 

renewed his decrepit condition, 
and repaired his brokenness. 

3 He rescued him and his descendants from the hands of the Devil, 

did away with his darkness and tyranny, 

and emancipated us [lit. "our necks"] from the service of Satan. 

4 He crucified sin by his crucifixion, 

killed death (which Adam inherited through trespass) by his death, 
and showed forth the resurrection. 

5 He established truth, 

and guidance, 
by his mercy, 

his gracious favor towards the people and towards God's creation, 
and his light among the people. 

6 He taught them to worship God (Allah) and His Word and His Spirit, 

one God (Hah) and one Lord. 


2. "On the Triune God," the tradition, and Arabic apologetics 

Using a rich and allusive language frequently of Qur'anic inspiration, the 
anonymous author of "On the Triune God" describes redemption as being rescued 
from Satan's dominance and all its ill effects - brokenness, slavery, bondage to sin and 
death - and being brought to salvation: wholeness, freedom, deliverance from sin and 
death, enlightenment, and the worship of the true God. This is accomplished by the 
Incarnation of the Word of God: Satan is overthrown and reduced to weakness and 
ignominy through the very humanity he had overthrown, weakened, and vaunted 
over. Furthermore, according to the author, the victory is won specifically through 
the crucifixion: Christ "crucified sin by his crucifixion" and "killed death ... by his 

(a) The role of Satan 

One of the striking features of the story of redemption told in Fi tat lit Allah 
al-wahid is the prominent role played in the plot by Satan (al-Saytan, or Iblis = 6 
5idf3o\oc,). This, of course, is by no means new in the history of Christian 
apologetics. Important patterns for much of subsequent Christian soteriology were set 
in the Adversus haereses of St. Irenaeus of Lyon (d. ca. 200), who taught that Christ's 
obedience "recapitulates" Adam's disobedience: whereas Adam's disobedience resulted 
in sin and death, destroyed fellowship with God, impaired the image and likeness of 
God in human beings, and brought about humanity's fall under the yoke of Satan, 
Christ's obedience led to life and immortality, the re-establishment of fellowship with 
God, the restoration of the image and likeness of God in human beings, and the 
defeat of Satan.< 17 > For Irenaeus and many after him, the (disobedient) 
Adam/(obedient) Christ parallel provided a framework for narrating the story of Jesus 
as the story of redemption; by imaginatively developing parallels between the story of 
Adam's disobedience and that of Christ's obedience, a considerable amount of biblical 
material could be brought into an aesthetically satisfying, "recapitulatively" 
harmonious plot/ 18 ) 

It is important to note that in the establishment of this recapitulative harmony 
Satan comes to play a role in the story of redemption far more prominent than the 

17. This summary is taken from KELLY, Doctrines (1977), 169-74. 

18. An example may be helpful. Proclus of Constantinople, in a sermon preserved in an Arabic 
version in the ninth-century manuscript Strassbourg or. 4226, describes the redemptive value of 
Christ's death by matching: the crucifixion of Christ and the transgression of Adam [by means of 
a tree]; Christ's nakedness and Adam's "taking off" his glory in the Garden; Christ's nailed hands 
and Adam's hands gathering the forbidden fruit; Christ's nailed feet and the feet which 
"descended from Jerusalem to Jericho" [Luke 10:30); Christ's crucifixion between thieves and the 
one who "fell among thieves upon the way"; Christ's being pierced by the lance and the lance of 
the cherubim guarding paradise, now broken. See LEROY, Homiletique (1967), 220. 


limited frequency of his appearances in the Bible might seem to warrant. For 
example, if Satan is not quite absent from the New Testament passion narratives/ 19 > 
he is not explicitly prominent in them. In "recapitulative" shapings of the biblical 
narrative, however, the episodes to be brought into harmony shape and reshape one 
another through a process of mutual assimilation in which any feature plausibly 
deemed to be common to the episodes gains in importance to the unifying plot. 
Through the pairing and mutual assimilation of the story of Christ's rejection of 
Satan's temptations in the wilderness with that of Adam's hearkening to the serpent in 
the Garden/ 20 ' and then of the story of Adam's fall by means of a tree with that of 
Christ's death on the cross/ 21 ) Satan's role "spread" throughout the network of stories 
until he came to be the great antagonist whose "rise and fall" is a major plot element 
binding together this particular way of telling the story of redemption. 

The author of "On the Triune God" is heir to this soteriological tradition, but he 
makes use of it in his own way. He does not indulge in the highly elaborate 
Adam/Christ, tree/cross parallels in which many Christians delighted but which he 
probably judged as being uninteresting or implausible to Muslims/ 22 ) Instead, he 
simply tells the story of Satan's seduction of Adam and Eve, his enslavement of 
humanity, and his defeat by the incarnate Word of God; but through the skillful use 
of Qur'anic vocabulary and snatches of Qur'anic narrative, he does it in such a way as 
to be appealing to a Qur'anicly formed imagination. 

(b) The deception of Satan 

The Christian soteriological tradition that narrated redemption as Christ's 
victory over Satan frequently saw that victory as the fruit of a divine deception: 
through the Incarnation, Christ's divinity was kept hidden from Satan so that he 
would be lured into the misstep that would undo him. A famous statement of this 
tradition is found in the catechetical lectures of Gregory of Nyssa, who used the 
striking image of Christ's humanity as the "bait" concealing the "fishhook" of the 

19. E.g., Luke 4:13 looks forward not only to Judas' betrayal (223-6) but also to Gethsemane (22:40-46) 
and Golgotha (23:37). 

20. Adversus haereses V, 21-24 (ROUSSEAU, Heresies (1969), 260-307). This pairing appears a 
number of times in the Arabic Christian texts studied here. See, for example, Chapter 17, 
Question 24 of al-Gami' wuguh al-iman, on the temptation of Christ (BL or. 4950, f. 109 rv >. if 
Adam was defeated by Satan through the desire for food, Christ triumphed over Satan by 
abstaining from food. (Similarly in Chapter 8, BL or. 4950, f. 36 r .) See also Abu Qurrah's Greek 
opusculum I PC 97, 1461-64. 

21. Adversus haereses V, 16, 3 (ROUSSEAU, Heresies (1969), 218-21). 

22. I am reminded of Cur Deus homo I, 3-4 (ROQUE, Dieu (1963), 220-23), where Anselm mentions 
the disobedience/obedience, Eve/Mary, and tree/cross parallels only to be told by Boso — 
representing the infideles, here the Muslims (see below, pp. 222-23) — that these parallels are 
beautiful but not particularly convincing. 


divinity: Satan greedily seized the bait - and was himself hooked and taken/ 23 ) 

This concept lies in the background of the account of redemption found in "On 
the Triune God," even though the author is restrained in his use of the vocabulary of 
deception. We note, however, his use of the verb ihtagaba: the Word of God "veiled 
himself" through the Virgin Mary in order to take on the Devil/ 24 ) echoing Gregory's 
teaching that God's "divinity was hidden by the veil of our nature''^ 25 ) so that He 
might accomplish His strategem (ajidxr)) against the Devil/ 26 ) Furthermore, ideas that 
lay unobtrusively in the background in "On the Triune God" are stated openly by later 
apologists/ 27 ) for example, by Peter of Bayt Ra's in the following passage from Book I 
of al-BurharvPV 

j-uji Oj-ul ifiiiv -iii Las' w ^Jt> di-U 1 

^jmJLj Li "Cj j£~a-t 2 

.((jj^LJI j^)) jlS'j 

23. Or. catech. XXIV, 4 (MERIDIER, Discours (1908), 114-15). For a good recent discussion of the 
theme of the deception of the devil in Gregory and others of the Fathers, see SCHWAGER, "Sieg 
Christi" (1981), 158-68. 

24. See above, p. 155. 

25. to npoKaXuuucm rrjq qpuoewq f|uuv eveKpu<p8r| to Oeiov, Or. catech. XXIV, 4 (MERIDIER, 
Discours (1908), 114-15), and see also XXIII, 3 (MERIDIER, Discours (1908), 110-11). 

The verb ihtagaba is ambiguous, since in the case of God a "veiling" may be a revealing as 
well as a concealing; see below, p. 186, note 111. Here, however, the emphasis is clearly on 

26. Or. catech. XXIV, 4, XXVI, 1 (MERIDIER, Discours (1908), 114-15, 118-21). 

27. In "On the Necessity of Redemption" Theodore Abu Qurrah states that Isaiah foresaw Christ's 
Incarnation, "and the hiding of the majesty of his divinity, so that Satan would make bold against 

him" (jlh Il 1$ j^*-J soyk^ J^L* a *LLi.ij , s j >iJ ^'j c- r ->- n-J »Lji-ii J_jJ l-i-*); BACHA, 

Mayamir (1904), 87/1-2. See also his "On the Possibility of the Incarnation," ibid., 184/19-185/4. 
The author of al-Gami' compares Christ's Incarnation with a shepherd's disguising himself in a 
sheepskin in order to defeat the wolf in Ch. 8 (BL or. 4950, f. 34 v ) and again in Ch. 17, Q. 19 
(BL or. 4950, f. 106 v -107 r ). 

28. CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61), I, 127 (#226). 


Superscript w indicates that Cachia's edition gives the masculine form as found in the 
corrections to Sinai ar. 75. The manuscript evidence, however, indicates that the author 
treated 4)1 ("Word of God") as grammatically feminine. 


1 For that reason the Word of God arranged his mingling with humanity 

with the most perfect justice, 
and with perfect mercy and power. 

2 Thus he devised a strategem (makarat) against the Devil 

just as the Devil had devised a strategem against Adam, 
and he is "the best of devisers." 

3 He veiled himself (ihtagabat) in Adamic flesh 

just as the Devil veiled himself from Adam in the flesh of the serpent. 

4 He tricked him (hada'athu) by his fleshly birth from Mary the virgin, 

just as he tricked Adam by his speech with Eve when she was a virgin. 

5 He threw him and his adherents down (sara'athu) by the wood of the cross, 

just as he threw down Adam and his wife by the wood of Paradise. 

Peter uses the language of deception without embarrassment, and makes explicit an 
expectation or hope that the author of "On the Triune God" had left implicit: that 
Christian soteriology done in this way might prove appealing to the imaginations of 
those who exulted in God "the best of devisers" (Al 'Imran (3):54, al-Anfdl (8):30), 
ready to work deception in order to vindicate His message and its bearers/ 29 ) 

(c) What does the crucifixion accomplish, and how? 

At the end of the passage just cited, Peter states that the Word of God was 
victorious over the Devil "by the wood of the cross." The Arabic apologies, in 
continuity with earlier soteriological tradition, insisted that the crucifixion was central 
to the cunning victory won by Christ. As we have seen, the author of "On the Triune 
God" wrote that Christ "crucified sin by his crucifixion" and "killed death ... by his 
death." And if the centrality of the crucifixion to Christ's saving work is mentioned 
only in passing in the part of "On the Triune God" summarized above, it is strongly 
emphasized in the final section of the treatise/ 30 ' There, it is by means of the 
crucifixion of Christ that "he redeemed us from the misguidance of the Devil and his 

29. See above, pp. 148-50. 

30. Passage on the cross in Sinai ar. 154, ff. 137 r -139 v (lacking in Gibson's ed.). 


works."( 3 >) "Christ . . . crucified sin and destroyed the Devil by his crucifixion.''^ 32 ) 
"Christ was crucified for the salvation of Adam and his descendants from death and 
s j n /*(33) "7h e mar k 0 f Christ is the cross, by which he overthrew the Devil and 
destroyed his authority/ 34 ) The author's whole vocabulary of redemption is here 
brought into explicit connection with the crucifixion. 

Similarly, the author of al-Gatni' wuguh al-lman teaches that the fatal misstep 
into which Satan was lured was precisely that of having Christ put to death. 
Responding to the question "Why do Christians kiss the cross and prostrate themselves 
to it?" he writes/ 35 ) 

1 And we only prostrate ourselves to it [the cross) 

because it was Satan who readied it for Christ our Lord, seeking his destruction; 
but in Christ's wisdom the tables were turned, 
[and the outcome was] the contrary of what he had arranged! 

2 The demolition of Satan's authority could not have been more shameful, 

because Satan had boasted in his wisdom, 

inasmuch as he had thrown down Adam, created in God's image, by a trick, 
thereby making himself master of the entire world. 

3 Therefore we brandish the sign of the cross before Satan, reviling his ignorance, 

because our salvation from bondage to him only came to pass 
through his [own] effort! 

4 And he runs away from it, a contemptible fugitive; 

he is not able to look upon it at all, but rather flees from it. 






31. aJUp'j il^U J- Lu Ulloi (jsJJl . . ., f. 137 r /14-15. 

32. a . I .a, _JLi iiUij ilkiJl -". . r . J), f. 137V7-9. 

33. i-JtiJlj o_j^Jl ^ijij <y^>- J*r* Cr* { ~r^*' — JJi f- 137 v /12-14. 

34. 4JLLL. ilU'j ^rJLl o ^a3l p,/.. . Il UJij, f. 139 v /7-10. 

35. In Chapter 18, #8;' BL or. 4950, f. 120 v /2-10 


It was by seeking Christ's destruction on the cross that Satan overreached himself and 
was in his turn tricked and thrown down, his boasting turned to shame. 

If the authors of Fl tat lit Allah al-wahid, al-Gami' wuguh al-lman, and 
al-Burhan all insist that it is through the cross that Christ's cunning victory over the 
Devil was won, they do not explain how this could have been the case/ 36 ) Turning 
back to the tradition, we do find attempts to answer this challenging how. In his 
catechetical lectures, Gregory of Nyssa explained that Christ's death was a ransom 
paid to the Devil for the release of the souls he held captive. The Devil, seeing 
Christ's surpassing excellence in all things but unaware of the divinity that had been 
hidden from him, accepted the ransom to his own ruin/ 37 ) This idea of a ransom paid 
to the Devil rapidly passed out of favor as a result of the critique of Gregory of 
Nazianzen/ 38 > but other elements of the narrative of Satan's deception had considerable 
staying power. Sometimes they were recombined to produce what Western historians 
of doctrine have called the "theory" of the Devil's abuse of power. God had accorded 
the Devil the right to put human beings to death because of their free disobedience, 
but the Devil overstepped his right in attacking Jesus, who was without sin. 
Therefore God acted in perfect justice when He punished the Devil for this abuse of 
power by stripping him of his captives/ 39 ) 

We find a clear statement of the "theory" of Satan's "abuse of power" among 
the writings attributed to Theodore Abu Qurrah, but only in the Greek opusculum 1 
which is best considered a (somewhat awkward) compilation of "Abu Qurran" 
materials/ 40 ^ There the author explains that human beings freely disobeyed God and 
offered their obedience to the Devil, and for that reason God justly gave them over 
to the Devil's tyranny. But then "Christ deceived^ 41 ' our adversary, who put him to 
death unjustly; and through this unjust death he took the Devil himself captive, and all 
the slaves in his hands."< 42 ) The author goes on to explain this by means of a little 
allegory involving a good king and a rebellious subject who seduced many others into 
disobedience to the king and submission to his own tyrannical rule. The good king 
justly refrained from stripping the tyrant of his servants, despite his capacity to do so, 
because of their voluntary submission to him. However, the king heard the 
tormented cries of these servants, and in pity sent his son, clothed as one of his 
subjects, to encounter the tyrant. The king's son enraged the tyrant by his refusal to 

36. The paragraph reproduced above from al-Burhan of Peter of Bayt Ra's is followed by others 
which explain the soteriological significance of Christ's death — but in terms other than those of 
his deception of and victory over the Devil. See CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61), I, 127-29 

37. Or. catech. XXII-XXVI (MERIDIER, Discours (1908), 106-27). 

38. Or. XLV, 22 (PG 36, 653-54). 

39. See RIVIERE, Redemption (1905), 396-97, with citations from John Chrysostom and Cyril of 

40. See RIVIERE, "Precurseur" (1914), 359. 

41. eSeXeaoev, lit. "enticed as bait (Seleap)." 

42. PG 97, 1465A [FT RIVIERE, "Precurseur" (1914), 3531. 


hearken to him, to the point that the tyrant crossed the river dividing their domains 
and murdered him. Then the good king justly deprived the tyrant of all that had 
been his, since he had unjustly shed royal blood/ 43 ) While this explanation possesses a 
fair degree of narrative coherence, it does not seem to have caught on among 
arabophone Christian apologists. Theodore himself quarries other parts of the 
tradition for the materials for his specifically apologetic, Muslim-directed doctrine of 
redemption/ 44 ) 

If the arabophone apologists we have encountered seem to have been quite 
unconcerned to tie up the loose ends of the plot of the story of Satan's defeat, this 
was by no means unprecedented. As Melkites, they could all look back to John of 
Damascus as an authority. In the paragraphs on redemption in his De fide orthodoxa, 
the Damascene drew heavily on the catechetical lectures of Gregory of Nyssa but 
explicitly rejected the notion of a ransom paid to the Devil, replacing it with a rather 
vague assertion about the victory of light over darkness and life over destruction/ 45 ) 
Thus he avoided a questionable theologoumenon, but left unclear precisely how God's 
just and fitting victory-through-deception over darkness and destruction was achieved. 

(d) A careful summary by a Muslim 

In addition to the Arabic Christian texts that we have been examining, we 
possess an excellent Islamic witness to the way in which arabophone Christians told 
the story of Christ's cunning defeat of the Devil: the rhymed Kitdb al-radd 'aid 
l-Nasdra of al-Qasim b. Ibrahim. In the following passage, written with an objectivity 
rare to either side of the Christian-Muslim controversy, he describes the Christian 
story of redemption as he understood it/ 46 ) 

43. PG 97, 1465-68 [FT RIVIERE, "P recurseur" (1914), 353—54]. A similar allegory appears in 
al-Burhan of Peter of Bayt Ra's, but without any mention of a royal death. See CACHIA, 
Demonstration (1960-61), I, 133-34 (#238). 

44. See below, pp. 211-23. 

45. See De fide orthodoxa III, 1 and especially 27 (KOTTER, Expositio (1973), 107/28-36 and 170/4-17). 

46. DI MATTEO, "Confutazione" (1921-22), 317/8-318/8. 




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twiii Jj~~-j (:ljJli) 24 


1 All the sects of the Christians, despite their difference and the distinctiveness 
of their doctrines, say: 

2 The reason for the descent of the divine Son, who came down from heaven 
to show mercy to humankind and to uphold the apostles and prophets, 3 was the sin 
of Adam. When he erred by eating of the tree which God had forbidden to him, 
and thus disobeyed, God (may He be blessed and exalted!) relieved Himself of 
responsibility for him {tabarrda minhu), and turned him over to Satan because he had 
followed him. 4 He was in Satan's possession and domain, and likewise all his 
progeny with him, Satan ruling over them in any way he pleased. 5 And among 
those over whom Satan ruled, from among Adam and his descendants, were many souls 
of the prophets and apostles of God, 6 including the soul of Noah, and the soul of 
Abraham, and other souls of the apostles and prophets. 

7 Then the Son had compassion, and resorted to artifice (ihtala) in order to 
recover those souls from the hand of Satan. For that purpose he put on (labisa) a 
human (Adaml) body, in order to be hidden from Satan by means of what he put on. 
8 And thus the Son disguised himself from him (tanakkara lahu), so that Satan should 
not be on his guard against him and avoid being "hooked" by his stratagem (makr) [lit. 
"and his strategem not pierce him"l 

I do not attempt to reproduce al-Qasim's rhyme or line structure, but arrange the translation in 
normal English paragraphs. For the sake of clarity, I leave untranslated al-Qasim's repeated 
I _jJl» ("they say"), I y^'j ("they claim"), and the like, by which he makes it perfectly clear that this 
is not his doctrine, and that he does not approve of it. 


9 When sin had gained ascendancy over the people and affliction visited them, 
10 and Adam clearly saw what Satan had done to him and what had come of his 
deceit and trickery (hadi'ah) with regard to him, 11 then the Son tricked (hada'a) 
Satan with his stratagem, achieved with it what he intended, 12 and recovered Adam 
and all his progeny from the authority and hand of Satan. 

13 All of that, and the Son gave himself up to crucifixion and the injury and 
distress that he endured before it 14 out of his beneficence and generosity to us, and 
his pity and mercy upon us. 

15 The Son purchased humanity from his Father by means of the injury and 
crucifixion that came upon him. 16 This [was necessary] because it was not consistent 
with the wisdom and justice of his Father that He deprive Satan of what had been 
granted to him, Adam and his progeny, 17 if they went over to the obedience of 
Satan and his affair, because He had said to Satan, 18 "Everyone who follows you is 
yours." 19 Therefore the Son purchased us from his Father justly (bi-l-'adl), and 
plundered Satan of those of us whom he possessed by means of a stratagem (bi-l-makr). 

20 When he had recovered Adam and the souls of the apostles and prophets, 
and after he had finished dealing with Satan, he ascended into heaven, 21 after forty 
days had passed from that of his crucifixion. 22 And he sat at the right [hand] of 
his Father, perfect in his [divine] entirety and his body, 23 and all the divinity (lahut) 
and humanity (nasut) that are in him, with all the properties (nu'ut) the two possess. 
24 And he will come down again, and shall judge the living and the dead at the 
passing of the world. 

al-Qasim's description of the "ecumenically-agreed" soteriological discourse of 
Christians in the Dar al-lslam is almost entirely free of polemic. It is only in his 
description of God "relieving Himself of responsibility" for Adam (#3), or in the stress 
he places on God's apostles and prophets being held captive by Satan (#5-6), that we 
clearly sense his disapproval;' 48 ) otherwise, he gives us an excellent description of how 
Christians narrated redemption as the story of the deception and defeat of Satan by 
the Son of God. In al-Qasim's account, there is no reserve about the vocabulary of 
deception: the Son of God resorted to artifice (ihtala), disguised himself (tanakkara), 
and tricked (hada'a) Satan by means of a stratagem (makr) (#7-12). Furthermore, it is 
clear that this stratagem comes to its climax and completion in the Son's passion and 
death (#13-19). 

But once again, the question remains: how was this the case? al-Qasim gives 
what may be recognized as fragments of explanations. For example, he reports that 
God had allowed Satan's claim on those who rebelled and followed him (#3, 17-18), and 
that it was not consonant with His justice that He simply deprive Satan of those who 
were his (#16). We might then expect to read that Christ deceived Satan either into 
accepting a ransom or into overstepping the limits of his just claim, but instead we 
find that the Son purchased humanity, not from Satan, but from God the Father (#15, 
19). It is not at all clear how these ideas fit together. If the souls of Adam and his 
progeny were justly Satan's, how could they be freed through a purchase from the 

48. On this point, see below, pp. 168-70. 


There is no reason to assume that al-Qasim was being unfair in his 
presentation. His statement that the Son purchased humanity from the Father reflects 
not only the common Christian conception of the death of Christ as a sacrifice 
offered to the Father/ 49 ) but also and especially the rejection of the discredited idea of 
a ransom paid to the Devil/ 50 ) If we credit al-Qasim with a high degree of 
objectivity, however, we must then assume that he had not heard a clear and 
internally consistent explanation of the "mechanism" of the strategem by means of 
which Christ plundered Satan of those whom he possessed (#19). His summary of the 
Christian narrative of redemption, while written with remarkable objectivity, lays 
bare the story's incongruities and loose ends. These would provide easy targets for 
Muslim polemicists, as we shall soon see. 

3. Concluding comments 

It is clear that the narrative redescription of the story of Jesus as that of his 
cunning victory over Satan was popular among Christians living in the Dar 
al-Isldm during the eighth and ninth Christian centuries. As we have seen from one 
of the oldest Arabic apologetic texts in our possession, "On the Triune God" of Sinai 
ar. 154, this story could be shaped with great artistry for presentation in a Qur'anicly 
molded imaginative environment. For all its attractiveness, however, "On the Triune 
God" fails to explain how the ignominious death of crucifixion could, in actual fact, 
have been the decisive battle of Christ's victorious campaign against Satan. This 
failure is by no means an isolated case, to judge from the other texts we have 
examined. In the earliest Arabic Christian apologetic literature (as in a considerable 
amount of earlier Greek literature) the explanatory power of the narrative of 
redemption told as the story of Satan's deception and defeat faltered at the point of 
the crucifixion. If the Incarnation per se and various events in the life of Christ 
could easily be narratively redescribed as a cunning campaign against the Devil/ 51 ) the 
crucifixion -- which all the apologists asserted to be climax of the campaign - was 
not so readily absorbed into the narrative. Muslim controversialists were quick to 
perceive and exploit this. 

Another difficulty may be mentioned. As Peter of Bayt Ra's made clear, the 
narrative of redemption studied here was a story of the Son's victory through makr, 
"a cunning device" or "stratagem," and was designed to appeal to the imaginations of 
Muslims who could exult in the Qur'an's description of God as hayr al-mdkirin, "the 

49. On the background of this idea, see PELIKAN, Emergence (1971), 146. 

50. Once again see John of Damascus, De fide orthodoxa 111,27 (KOTTER, Expositio (1973), 170/4-17), 
where in a single paragraph we find the idea of Christ's self-offering to the Father, a vehement 
rejection of the notion that Christ's blood was offered to the Devil, and the image of death's 
swallowing the bait of the body and being caught on the fishhook of the divinity. 

51. For such an interpretation of Christ's temptation and exorcisms, see Book I of al-Burhan, CACHIA, 
Demonstration (1960-61), I, 135-36 (#240-42). 


best of devisers," ready to work deception in the defence of His apostles. In Chapter 
Three, however, we encountered a number of Christian apologists, among them 
Timothy and Ibrahim al-Tabarani, who indignantly rejected the notion that God could 
be the subject of tasbih or in any way be a deceiver.* 52 ) It is perhaps significant that 
Timothy and Ibrahim did not narrate redemption as a divine deception of Satan. The 
realization that there might be a contradiction between the critique of the subbiha 
lahum on the one hand, and the story of Christ's deception of Satan on the other, may 
have been one factor motivating some arabophone Christian apologists to seek 
other ways in which to tell the story of redemption in the Islamic environment. We 
shall examine some of these ways in due course. 

B. The Islamic Critique of the Christian Story: Satan's Power, Christ's Defeat 

A narrative of redemption such as that related in "On the Triune God" consists 
in three fundamental elements: a description of a state of deprivation, from which 
redemption is necessary; the narration of the redemptive act; and a description of the 
new state of "salvation" brought into being by this act. For "On the Triune God" (as 
well as a number of other Arabic Christian apologies) the state of deprivation is 
described as Satan's ascendancy over the whole of humanity as a result of the Fall. 
The redemptive act is the eternal Son's cunning deception of Satan, reaching its 
climax in the crucifixion. And the salvation brought about is described as one 
marked by the defeat of Satan, sin, and death. 

At each step in the Christian narrative, Muslim polemicists professed 
themselves to be unconvinced, perplexed, or even shocked. We turn now to their 

1. The background: Were God's apostles and prophets among Satan's captives? 

The Christian narrative of redemption as Christ's victory over Satan described 
the state of deprivation from which Christ saved humanity in the direst terms 
(thereby making the salvation worked by Christ all the more glorious): as a result of 
the Fall, Satan made himself "master of the entire world."* 53 ) Adam and all of his 
descendants fell into sin - even Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Enoch, and Noah, as 
Theodore Abu Qurrah explained to an inquirer* 54 ) - and thus fell under sentence of 
death, their souls to be held captive by Satan. 

52. See above, pp. 137-38. 

53. See above, p. 161 (#2). 

54. If, that is, the passage from the Greek opusculum 1 (PG 97, 1463-64) does indeed originate in the 
work of Abu Qurrah. 


For a number of Muslim writers the claim that before Christ Satan had taken 
captive "many souls of the prophets and apostles of God, including the soul of Noah 
and the soul of Abraham, and other souls of the apostles and prophets,"* 55 ' was simply 
unthinkable. The author of the "Letter of 'Umar," for example, was eloquently 
scandalized:* 56 ' 

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O ja yj oJ^aJ C-Jl^ ^1 3 (j-^iJI f»-* J °M f-*^' ^ 

^^i:! ^jip ^rJL"! j^p^i^J (!aJU>«jj 4JL>^) AUt jlT L. 4 J-w«Jj 

?4JlkJL-j ill SjOi j/li f^-jiJI ill: ill ^-~LiJ C)l la. All 

Jyl ^^jU ^jii) !4JlkL.j ajj-lL. IJLa Jli ijA J-*»t L» '.-oil jl>*-— 6 


1 You have claimed, in your heedlessness with respect to God and your 
ignorance of His affair, that the souls of all who had died since the creation of Adam 
were with the Devil (Iblls), the chief of sin, who was given authority and made ruler 
over them until Jesus came, and snatched and wrested them away from him. 
2 Among those souls were the souls of Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, and the 
souls of those whom God had honored of the prophets and the righteous people of His 
creation, who had obeyed God, worshipped Him, striven on His behalf, and who had 
treated the Devil as an enemy and disbelieved in him! 

3 How could it be that the Devil tormented those righteous souls, gaining power 
over them after they had renounced him and disbelieved in him, while he had mercy 
on the disbelieving souls who had worshipped him, believed in him, and striven on his 
behalf? 4 How could it be that God (may He be extolled in His praise!) asked the 
Devil to store up the souls of His prophets and the righteous ones of His creation who 
had worshipped Him, or gave him authority over them? 5 How could it be that Satan 
wrested these souls away from God? Is this consistent with the power and authority of 

6 God be exalted [above such foolishness]! How deluded is the person who says 
this about the power and authority of God! "Surely you speak at variance; and 
perverted therefrom are some" [al-Dariyat (51):8— 9]. 

55. See above, pp. 164-65 (#5-6). 

56. SOURDEL, "Pamphlet" (1966), 28/13-22. 


'"Umar" mentions, in addition to Adam, the names of great (Old Testament) 
prophets and (Qur'anic) apostles whose stories of divine deliverance are told in the 
Qur'an: Noah, Abraham, Moses/ 57 ' How, after delivering them from evildoers during 
their lifetime, could God have turned them over to Satan after their death?! For 
'"Umar" and polemicists like him, the Christians' dire description of pre-Christian 
reality simply does not square with a Qur'anic sense of God's timelessly and 
consistently just dealings with His servants. The Christian story of redemption as the 
drama of Satan's rise and fall assigns Satan far too grand a role, at the expense of 
God's apostles and prophets. Ultimately, it grants Satan this role at the expense of the 
dignity of God Himself. 

2. The turning-point: who was defeated? 

'All al-Tabari had been a Nestorian Christian for some seventy years before 
converting to Islam during the reign of the caliph al-Mutawakkil. It is therefore no 
surprise that he could report the Christian story of redemption in terms reminiscent 
of "On the Triune God":^) 

1*1)1 jl ^e-y iiiU? p$JL* 1 

iUjii '^j-ljl Lul ~L»-j 
• LflS' ji^UJI jUu UyVj> 

,l\y\ j]^ ^ J^oi 2 
i lAj j . L^jj* JL) j 

,'_\\ U ; * II 

nisi j jlta : ». II oJL>-ij 3 
!<ulj^-i jj» Lo jZ* <^Ju ^s- <Ju» 


1 A party of [the Christiansp 9 ' claim that God, 
when he saw that Satan's prestige was rising, 
that his affair was getting out of control, 

and that the prophets were incapable of dealing with him, 

57. See above, pp. 148-50. 

58. In al-Din wa-l-dawlah, 'ADIL NUWAYHID, Din (1979), 208/1-5. 

59. 'AH presents this here as Jacobite doctrine, but he makes clear in a parallel passage in al-Radd 
'aid l-Nasard that the story is essentially the same for all the Christian confessions: 
KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" (1959), 139/5-10. 


found for Himself an eternal Son, 
without parallel in all the creation. 

2 And he entered the womb of a woman, 

was born from her and grew, 
and defied Satan. 

3 And Satan took him and killed him, 

and crucified him at the hands of a small band of his partisans! 

'All's polemical impulses are here under restraint; apart from the construction "God 
. . . found for Himself an eternal Son" there is nothing with which his Christian 
contemporaries would disagree, although they would of course extend the narrative to 
include the Son's victory. As 'All had come to understand the story, however, Christ's 
death "at the hands of a small band of [Satan's] partisans" was the end of the story. 
That is, to the extent to which 'All found the Christian narrative of Christ's struggle 
with Satan to be coherent, it is a story of ignominious defeat. He makes this 
perfectly clear in a number of places, especially in the following passage from 
al-Radd 'aid l-NasdrdS 6 ^ 

cilk^ 1 y J**- 1 ^ v*-* St l 

tiUjJi a/1 <ul*j^ilj tQlkySJI ^-LU t-LiL* *U-^ 3 ! jUauJJI /ja ^iL 

!<dii c<ulc- ^JlOj 14-* jiil j i<uJb>-l j tiJJj aAp £ jliu-iJI 

co^J ^ jH\ Jp *JL! jl ol j^-JI Ll*J J_^aJI IJLa ji 4 

3 yfcLDI Oj^ 1 iS^i jUa^iJI *JL.^ Ij c*L_JI j> Jj^l 

jlS* Uj ¥*]Ji <Jlp gjJUl IS ^ jt 6 Jib. All <uxi»J 

(! JUJj iijlJ) i>l U^L^U jl t«c...,..^ L,j 7 iijlj ^ 

Jp Ji' J {4) \+>/\ ^ — =Jl hujiJ\ jIjl. 5t iUij 8 

JUfljij c<uc«Jj QlkylJI 5_pjL>t^J I j-aj'<j 9 tj^w>-i ^jVl JiAi jL>-_j 
J, t Ijaljt L. ™\jjbL fli 10 ^Ul O^JI ^ ciJkiJI 

tjlkJtJI 11 !aJL>-t ^ ill Jp .1 ^i>-l j tij^J jlkJJI Ijilj 

60. Ibid., 133/6-19. 


jUai iCjjJ^L. U^i) 4l>l JjI (7, L 5^ V^v' 0>>JI 12 ip/jll ^J- 

.%pj w c^J t^l 

(1) Ed. ^i. (2) Ed. (3) Ed. ^U. (4) Ed. Ujyu. (5) Ed. i&JLJl. (6) The 

fifth form of the verb would be more usual. (7) Ed. j*-. (8) Ed. p+J. 


1 [The Christians] relate that the reason for his descent was solely to release 
the people from the captivity of sin, but then they claim that he himself became a 
captive! 2 He came to help the people, but then cried out to God for help against 
Satan! 3 He came to rescue the people from Satan, but he was wrapped up in [his] 
cords, because Satan attacked him after that: he snatched and seized him as his prey, 
broke him, and finally killed him! 

4 This doctrine is so foul that the heavens wellnigh fall upon the earth [cf. 
Maryam (19):90], and so repulsive that souls are in dismay! 

5 It is a wonder of wonders that the eternal Creator should be obliged to 
send His eternal Son down from heaven, and then send him to Satan at the hands of 
His eternal conquering Spirit, in order that [Satan] should test and humiliate him. 
6 Or, who [else] was it who obligated him to do this? What was His or His creation's 
gain from it? 7 I do not believe that anyone since the world was established has 
derided God (may He be blessed and exalted!) or praised Satan more than the Christians 
do in what they say about this! 

8 That is because the central theme of the creed (sari'ah) and the liturgy 
Uasablh) that you recite every day is that God (.Allah) and His Son and His Spirit came 
to Satan, and with them the angels, the heavenly ones, and the best of all the folk of 
the earth. 9 They rose up to do battle with Satan and subdue him, to bring sin to 
nought, and to repel death from the people altogether. 10 But they did not obtain 
what they desired, but rather increased Satan's rebelliousness, his brazenness against 
God, and his security from seizure! 11 [This is] because when Satan safely escaped 
from his enemies and continued in his former condition, the air became sweet for him, 
his troubles cleared away, and he was released from his fear; 12 and because the 
distress [from which Satan escaped] was brought upon the Son of God (so they say), 
who became his captive and casualty. 

As was the case with the Christians' description of the dire state of 
pre-Christian humanity, so it was with their narrative of the allegedly redemptive act: 
it makes too much of Satan, who, Christians claim (with relish, even) was responsible 
for Christ's death. As 'All's paraphrase has it, Satan swallowed Christ up like a 
ravening beast. But, 'AH asks, how can this be? "They [the Christians] say one time 
that Jesus Christ is the eternal Creator, and then they claim that Satan overcame and 
killed himH 61 > And again, "How is it that Satan fled from the prophets and left them 
alone, but gained power over their Lord?"( 62 > 

Christians had asserted that Christ's surrender to the cross prepared for him by 
Satan was the climax of a grand deception, but, as we have seen, they had not very 

61. <A± jLL^-fJl j* J t jJU Jj' £~~ Jl jl I Jlii, KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" 

(1959), 139/1. 

62. ? ^ t .j jJi^Zj ( { j - » jUa-j-Ul I * L_ ; Vl I , | LP ji Jt . Ci, from the fragments of 'All's Radd 

preserved in the refutation of al-Safi b. al-'Assal, MURQUS GIRGIS, Sahaih (1927-28), 94/15-16. 


satisfactorily explained how this was so, how it was that Christ's undergoing 
crucifixion could in fact be the climax of a campaign issuing in glorious victory. 
When the explanations failed, as they did with 'All al-Tabari, the narrative appeared 
to end with Satan putting the Son of God to the most shameful of deaths -- a 
scandalous end to the story, one that offers praise to Satan, derision to God, and 
"shame and disparagement to the folk of the heavens and the earth."( 63 > 

3. The outcome: is redemption verifiable? 

When Christian attempts to narrate Christ's crucifixion as the climactic 
moment in the story of his victory-through-deception failed to be convincing, it was 
easy for Muslim critics to make the judgement that the story was in fact one of 
failure. But their judgement was not solely an assessment of a narrative presenting a 
number of obscurities. Rather, Christians had claimed that the narrative was true and 
had salvation-historical consequences. The author of "On the Triune God" had claimed 
that "Christ . . . crucified sin and destroyed the Devil by his crucifixion" and "killed 
death ... by his death."' 64 ) Not only did such claims strike a polemicist like 'All 
al-Tabari as inherently incoherent - "How does the one whom death killed overcome 
death?"( 6 5) -- but they also seemed to be open to empirical falsification. 'Ammar 
al-Basri recorded the sort of questions that Muslim questioners could and did ask:< 66 ) 

ji£ I LjjJI C-Jl^ -Ll* Oj^JI ^Jj tOj-JI J-ia_>l 3 

JL* Jai JL* jj-UI jL-Pl ^1 £-j~»*JI -L* 4JL» 


How did [Christ] nullify sins for them, when we see all people sinning and 
transgressing? (And then they claim that he threatened sinners with everlasting 

63. -J ) y ) LJOJI jJU- i»Ua^Jl [jl£i] ( l )-«*>' J>jH\ JaV llfj UjJ. .U Il ^1 Jl*-\j jl Il iy^> o\£ Jil 

^jVlj ol ^«-. J l JjkM I^oJl^j "jle- Jii { ji>- 4_JlJ »Li aJL^.ij jl U , ,:, ll ojL>v-J ("If indeed through 
one man's ascension into heaven was honor for all the folk of the earth, then the descent of the 
Creator to do battle with Satan, and his giving him power over himself to the extent that he was 
killed, was shame and disparagement to the folk of the heavens and the earth!"), 
KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" (1959), 132/9-12. 

64. See above, p. 156 (#4). 

65. ?o_^Jl j, o^Jl iJLu JlS, MURQUS GIRGIS, Sahaih (1927-28), 103/10-11. 

66. In the Kitab al-masail wa-l-agwibah IV.47, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 255*713-16. 


And how did he abolish death for them, when not since the world began has 
death been more widespread than [it has been] since the appearance of Christ to the 
present day, and never have people's lifespans been shorter than [they have been] since 
that time until now? 

Empirically speaking, claimed the Muslims, Christ's career was a failure. He 
had come to do away with sin and death, but had failed to do so/ 67 ) He had come 
for the salvation of all people, but only a minority believed/ 68 ' And even among 
those who did believe, death was just as apparent as among those who did not/ 69 ' 

Therefore, the Muslim polemicists decide, the Christian narrative of redemption 
as Christ's cunning victory over Satan is incoherent and results in claims that are 
simply false, and those who believe it are deserving only of scorn. "Christ did not cut 
a strand of the ropes of Satan,"( 70 > wrote 'All al-Tabari, but "bequeathed [his followers] 
the mockery of all people.''^ 71 ' 

4. Consequences 

The very sharp Islamic critique of the Christian story of Christ's 
victory-through-deception over Satan the world-enslaver was undoubtedly heard by 
Christian apologists. Some responded by exerting their imaginations in an attempt to 
explain more plausibly how Christ's ignominious death by crucifixion was in fact the 
climax of his gloriously successful deception of Satan/ 72 ' Others, however, appear to 
have responded to the Islamic critique by developing explanations of the crucifixion 
and its benefits quite different from what we saw in "On the Triune God." They 

67. 'Ali al-Tabari in al-Radd 'ala l-Nasara: ? j IS o^Jlj i_kiJl Jk- J JL UJ ("Why 
did he not do away with sin and death through his coming, as you claim?"), MURQUS GIRGIS, 
Sahaih (1927-28), 92/3. 

68. So in the "Letter of 'Umar," SOURDEL, "Pamphlet" (1966), 28/23-29/2. 

69. So Abu Ra'itah's "questioner" in "On the Incarnation," GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 37 (#13), or SAMIR, 
"Creation" (1989), 206-7 (#199-200). 

70. o> U ,, : .ll JiL^ j, \yJi ^ki Vj, MURQUS GIRGIS, Sahaih (1927-28), 87/4. 
7L ^r"LJl y\— ■ l j| T -*V l f+'jj' ibid., lines 7-8. 

72. As in the second or ninth chapters of the Kitab al-ldah of the tenth-century Copt Sawirus 
b. al-Muqaffa' (GCAL II, 309-11 (#4)). According to Sawirus (in Chapter Nine, which I read in 
Vatican ar. 1258 (16th c), 174 r -190 v ), from the time of his human birth Christ was determined to 
deceive Satan, and throughout his ministry acted in such a way as to keep Satan in doubt about 
his true identity. The endgame was played out at Golgotha; it was not until after Christ's word "I 
thirst" and the cry of dereliction that Satan was convinced that Christ was a mere man, and 
approached in order to reveal himself to him, dry up his blood through fear, and carry his soul 
off to Hell. But Christ died of his own free will (and thus his blood was not dried up, but could 
later flow from the spear wound in his side), bound Satan, and took possession of the souls in 
Hell as an indemnity for his death (ff. 183 v -186 v ). 


chose not to narrate the story of redemption as that of Satan's rise and fall, so as not 
to be exposed to the charge that their understanding of redemption made too much of 
Satan, to the dishonor of God and of His faithful human servants. 

This "demythologizing" trend is well illustrated from the apologetic work of 
Abu Ra'itah. In his "On the Incarnation" he freely uses the vocabulary of the story of 
our first parents' fall under the tyranny of Satan:* 73 ' the point of the Incarnation is the 
rescue {inqdd) of Adam and his descendants, their salvation (tahlis) from error 
(dalalah) which had overcome them (tasallatat 'alayhim), their being raised up 
(inhad) from their overthrown state (sar'ah), and their return (radd) to their original 
state (martabatihim al-ula). A comparison with passages reproduced above from Ft 
tat lit Allah al-wahid, al-Burhan, and al-Gami' wuguh al-iman is revealing. In those 
texts, the rescue (inqdd) is from the hands of the Devik,w it is the error or 
misguidance {dalalah) of the Devil from which humanity must be saved;* 75 ) it is 
Satan who had thrown down (sara'a) Adam by a trick* 76 ) and thereby gained 
ascendancy and mastery over all of humanity/ 77 ) In "On the Incarnation," Abu Ra'itah 
uses precisely the same vocabulary but without mentioning the Devil. He speaks 
instead of the "enfeeblement" of Adam and his descendants "through their long 
familiarity with [error]."* 78 ) 

In addition to this "demythologizing" trend, there was a search for new "points 
of contact" between Christians and Muslims on which to build an apologetic 
presentation of redemption, with the crucifixion in its center. In "On the Triune 
God," the "points of contact" were, as we saw, shared fragments of narrative - the 
creation of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden; the mission and 
deliverance of Noah, Lot, and Moses; the annunciation - worked into a story of the 
acts of a God commonly celebrated as hayr al-makirin, "the best of devisers." The 
apologetic aspect of this presentation of redemption consisted in the attempt to induct 
Muslims, through these common elements, into the Christian story into which these 
elements had been incorporated. However, this sort of "narrative apologetic" did not 
fare very well, to judge from the criticisms of '"Umar," 'All al-Tabari, and others. The 
Christian narrative imagination failed to make contact with an Islamic spirit that 
searched the Qur'an for eternal, unchanging verities. And therefore, Christian 
apologists came to look more for shared principles or doctrines than for shared 

73. For what follows see GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 36/3-5, or SAMIR, "Creation" (1989), 200-1 (#175-77). 

74. See above, pp. 155-56 (#3). 

75. Ibid. (#1). Abu Ra'itah himself slips into this kind of language in his "Apology for the Christian 
Religion": God became incarnate in order to save his servants jlla— Lll ^UJl 1)%** jj>, "from the 
misguidance of the tyrant Satan"; GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 150/3. 

76. See above, pp. 159-60, 161 (#2). 

77. See above, p. 161 (#2). 

78. [iJ^Ul ptsill J^k, GRAF, Abu Raita (1959), 36/4 or SAMIR, "Creation" (1989), 
200-1 (#176). 


narrative fragments to serve as the "points of contact" upon which to construct their 
explanations of Christ's redemptive death. 

But this is to anticipate upcoming discussion. 

H. Redemption as Certainty in the General Resurrection 

A. The "Divine Demonstration" Apology: Introduction 

1. Christ "showed forth the resurrection" 

At one point in his conversation with the caliph al-Mahdl, the Nestorian 
catholicos Timothy stressed the freedom with which Jesus Christ went to his 
crucifixion. According to the catholicos, Christ was perfectly capable of saving 
himself from the Jews. After all, the gospels report that he had escaped from their 
hands before (e.g. Luke 4:28-30), while the wonders that attended his crucifixion - to 
say nothing of his eventual resurrection - bore witness to his power. Butf 19 ) 

If he had delivered himself from the Jews, then he would not have been 
crucified. If he had not been crucified, neither would he have died. If he had not 
died, neither would he have risen to everlasting life. And if he had not risen to 
everlasting life, then people would have remained without a sign of, or arguments for, 
[the reality of] everlasting life. 

Today, because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the eyes of all 
people are looking towards everlasting life. So that this expectation of everlasting life 
and of the world to come be firmly impressed upon the people, therefore, it was 
fitting that Jesus Christ rise from the dead; and so that he rise from the dead, it was 
fitting and right that he first die; and so that he die it was right first that his death 
— as also his resurrection — be witnessed by all. [Therefore] it was fitting that he 
die the death of the cross. 

Timothy tells a story quite different from that told by his contemporary, the 
author of "On the Triune God." Instead of narrating redemption as Christ's cunning 
defeat of Satan, he narrates Christ's crucifixion, death, and resurrection as a divine 
demonstration of the reality of the general resurrection and of the life of the world 
to come, a demonstration that affords hope and confidence to his faithful people. 

This motif is, of course, not new with the Christian controversy with Islam. It 
appears throughout the history of the Church, usually alongside other motifs. Thus in 
the oldest eucharistic anaphora for which we have a text, that of the Apostolic 
Tradition of Hippolytus (dating to ca. 215 A.D. and preserving older material), God is 

79. Syriac text in MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 118/2/11-119/1/5. Cf. the Arabic recension edited by 
CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 145 (#36-37). 


praised for sending Jesus to "destroy death, and break the chains of the devil, and beat 
down hell underfoot, and lead the righteous to light, and fix a limit, and manifest the 
resurrection."^ We have already encountered similar language in "On the Triune 
God": "He crucified sin by his crucifixion, killed death (which Adam inherited 
through trespass) by his death, and showed forth the resurrection (wa-azhara 
l-qiyamah).^ But if the manifestation of the resurrection in these texts is but one 
(unemphasized) aspect of the salvation worked in and by Christ, many Arabic 
Christian apologists — e.g. Timothy, Abu Ra'itah, 'Ammar al-Basn, Ibrahim 
al-Tabaranl, the author of al-Gami' — made it the centerpiece of their apologetic 
soteriology. Christ died and rose again in order to give us the certainty (yaqin — 
words from the root yqn will appear frequently in this section) of the reality of the 
general resurrection. 

As an example, we may cite a passage from 'Ammar's Kitab al-masa'il 
wa-l-agwibah in which he makes use of a vivid little allegory to make his point:< 82 > 


See the ed. and FT of BOTTE, Tradition (1968), 50-51. 
See above, p. 156 (#4). 

Kitab al-masa'il wa-l-agwibah IV,32, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 229*-30*. 


tp^JX^i J> ^Ul .1 5" ..,, I 
t*_fJ <u>j -uil^J 

i * * 

t p <":' i>* Si L*j ^aj j! jili <ul \y*jJ) 

^^jupI ^y^>) <*+>^\ ^ 

t^JklJO ^^JLp -U^fOj <upLL» jj^ij-i 

(1) Ed. ^Uj. 

1 It is as [in the case of] a kind, skillful physician: 

when he wanted people to be guided by his knowledge, 
rely on seeking him out, 

and ardently desire his medicine, 
he made a public demonstration in his own self 
of the knowledge and skill he claimed for himself. 

2 And not finding any demonstration inspiring greater certainty for them, 

or greater confidence in their breasts, 

than that he have mortal poison brought to him 
and drink it before them, 
[he did so]; 

3 so that, 

when the poison took effect in his body, 

he took some of his medicine; 
he subdued the the poison by means of it, 

and he lived; 

the poison — with the medicine — did not harm him at all. 

4 At that time the people watching recognize the abundance of his knowledge, 

and ardently desire to obtain great quantities of his medicine! 


5 Just so [is the case of] Christ, who gives life to the worlds by his power. 
Since the purpose of his appearance in the world 

was to seek the rescue of the people from their error, 
to draw them away from the obedience of the Devil 
to the obedience of their Lord, 
and to satisfy their minds with certainty (yaqln) 
in the good news he announced to them 
concerning the resurrection of their bodies 
and their destiny in blessedness, 

which he prepared for those of them who were righteous, 

6 it pleased him, because of his compassion and love for them, 

to take upon himself pains and suffering for their benefit, 
to die before them, 

and to rise in front of them, 

7 so that their souls would have confidence 

in the good news of that [resurrection] which he announced to them, 
and so that they would be certain (yuqinu) 
that he is able to fulfill for them what he had promised 
concerning the resurrection of their dead, 

and their recompense in heavenly blessedness, 

on the basis of their faith and the righteousness of their works. 

8 Thus they would prefer his obedience and his call 

over [the attractions and demands of] their world, 
and their recompense and reward would abound 
according to their exertions for his sake in their obedience [to him]. 

The popularity of this image of the physician trying out his own antidote on himself 
is attested by its presence in, for example, the frefa-recension of the dialogue of 
Ibrahim al-TabaranI( 83 > and some of the recensions of Abu Qurrah's debate at the 
court of al-Ma'mun.( 84 ) 

2. The apologetic "point of contact" 

The popularity of the "demonstration" redescription of the story of Christ in 
the writings of the earliest Arabic Christian apologists may be attributed to the desire 
of these writers to build an apologetic soteriology upon an obvious piece of common 
ground between Christians and Muslims: the belief in the general resurrection of the 
dead, and in eternal life for God's elect. In the light of the death and resurrection of 
Jesus Christ, Christian apologists could claim to have superior grounds for holding to 
this belief. 'All al-Tabari gives a somewhat distorted reflection of this Christian claim 
when, in his al-Dln wa-l-dawlah, he devotes a section to a "refutation of the one who 

83. E.g., at Paris ar. 215, ff. 60 v -61 r ; Vatican ar. 136, ff. 107 v -108 r ; Vatican syr. 608, ff. 81 v -82 r ; 
VOLLERS, "Religionsgesprach" (1908), 57-58. 

84. E.g. Mingana syr. 190, f. 14 r and 444, ff. 151 r -152 v ; Paris ar. 70, ff. 182 v -183 v and 258, f. 241 v ; 
Paris ar. 198, ff. 47 r -48 r and 215, ff. 242 r . 


claims that no one but Christ mentioned the resurrection."* 85 ) The Christian claim, 
however, was not that no one but Christ had mentioned the resurrection, but that 
only the death and resurrection of Christ provided sure grounds for believing in it. 

This Christian claim is often left unstated, but it is expressed very bluntly in 
the Ibrahim al-Tabarani debate/ 86 ) Accused by the Muslim al-Basri of disbelieving in 
the resurrection (al-qiydmah wa-l-ba't), Ibrahim responds:* 87 ) 


"We [Christians], with respect to the resurrection, are [living] in truth and certainty ('aid 
l-haqq wa-l-yaqin), because we have seen the resurrection with our own eyes! But you 
[Muslims] and the Jews, with respect to the resurrection, are [living solely] in hope ('aid 

Ibrahim goes on to explain that this is because both Moses and Muhammad, despite 
their proclamation of the general resurrection, died and did not rise. Christ, on the 
other hand, not only proclaimed the general resurrection as did Moses and 
Muhammad, and died and was buried, but then rose from the dead and ascended into 
heaven, from whence he will come again. With regard to the general resurrection, 
then, "we [Christians] then have been granted by our master to live in the realization 
of truth ('aid l-tahqlq), but you have [only] been granted by your master to live in 
hope ('aid l-raga')y s) 

3. Responses to questions 

(a) How is the demonstration salvific? 

The "divine demonstration" redescription of the story of Christ can be seen as 
belonging to an ancient stream of Christian thought that saw salvation primarily as 
enlightenment. Life lived in "expectation of everlasting life and of the world to 
come," to use Timothy's phrase, is qualitatively different from that which has no such 
firm expectation. As 'Ammar put it, those who live in sure confidence of the 
resurrection of the body and the reward of heavenly beatitude on the basis of faith 

85. (!(.*_JI <JU) C- . II ^ JL*1 U^fJL ^ L.LJJI j* jj> Jl* ^i, 'ADIL NUWAYHID, 

Din (1979), 203-4. 

86. See MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 512-15 (#535-45). 

87. Ibid., 512-13 (#536-38). 

88. .u^Ji J* () £ r3 -L> pit !j;i>vJl \J* L-»-U> j^i; ibid., 514-15 (#545). 


and righteous works "would prefer his obedience and his call over [the attractions and 
demands of] their world." 

It was on the basis of the "divine demonstration" redescription of the story of 
Christ that Abu Ra'itah was able to respond to a Muslim questioner who found 
Christian claims about salvation from death to have no empirical foundation/ 89 ' 
According to Abu Ra'itah, there are two sorts of death: death in its true or literal 
meaning (bi-haqq), which is "the death of sin and error"; and death in its figurative 
meaning {bi-sti'arah min al-qawl), which is the separation of the soul from the body/ 90 ) 
As for "figurative" death, the separation of the soul from the body, it will be 
overcome in the general resurrection, the truth of which Christ has established 
through his own bodily resurrection. For the present, "the one who is certain 
(mutayaqqin) of the return of his life is not dead, even though he dies."< 91 ) 

Furthermore, not only is the death of final separation of soul from body 
overcome in the divine demonstration of the resurrection, but also "the death of sin 
and error"/ 92 ) 

Iff jLlJ! & 
. *G \: ->■ ^JjJ ta J^jj' »»JljL>- 


The cause of true death is ignorance of the resurrection, 

and the cause of true life is certainty (al-tayaqqun) of it. 
That is because the one who is certain (al-mutayaqqin) of it 

fears his faults and hopes in his good deeds; 
while the one who doubts it 

refrains from good deeds and pursues sins. 

In Abu Ra'itah's analysis, soteriological summaries such as we encountered in "On the 
Triune God" -- "he crucified sin by his crucifixion, killed death ... by his death, and 
showed forth the resurrection"* 93 ) -- receive a very specific interpretation. It was 
precisely by showing forth his resurrection from death that Christ overcame death, 

89. See above, p. 174, note 69. For what follows (from Abu Ra'itah's "On the Incarnation "), see GRAF, 
Abu Ra'itah (1951), 37 (#13), or better, SAMIR, "Creation" (1989), 206-9 (#199-215). 

90. For another Jacobite analysis of the kinds of death, see below, pp. 263-65. 

91. olw toL. jij t-CU* SiUu ^hL-JI .j-JU; GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 37/15; SAMIR, "Creation" (1989), 
208-9 (#210). 

92. GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 37/16-18; SAMIR, "Creation" (1989), 208-9 (#212-14). 

93. See above, p. 156 (#4). 


not only the separation of soul and body, but also "the death of sin." 

(b) Why was the preaching of the resurrection insufficient? 

It is not difficult to imagine a Muslim controversialist, confronted with the 
Christian "divine demonstration" apology, saying in response: "We believe in the 
resurrection of the dead quite as firmly as you do! So in what lies the superiority 
that you claim for Christ's communication concerning the resurrection?" The closest 
thing to such a retort preserved in our literature is a question in 'Ammar al-Basrfs 
Kitab al-masa'il wa-l-agwibahS 9 ^ There the questioner asserts that all the prophets 
called people to the obedience of their Lord and proclaimed to them the resurrection 
of the dead, but that all but Christ were content to do this by means of their 
preaching, without delivering themselves into the hands of their enemies. "If their 
preaching was one, their word was one, and their reception by the people was nearly 
the same in every case, then Christ's giving himself over to death -- which he alone 
of them did - was without causeH 95 ' 

'Ammar's response is interesting, because instead of developing the "in truth 
and certainty'Vin [mere] hope" distinction that lies behind the "divine demonstration" 
apology and which the Ibrahim al-Tabaranl debate made explicit, he moves to a 
different plane of discussion. 'Ammar argues that the prophets did not all preach the 
same message. Moses, for preeminent example, preached a f/z/s-worldly message with 
f/i/s-worldly promises. Christ, on the other hand, called his followers to self-denial in 
this world (Matthew 16:25, 19:29), in which he could only promise them 
suffering (Matthew 24:9, John 16:2), but taught them to look to the world to come for 
their recompense (Matthew 19:27-28). Christ's suffering and death is of a piece with 
his distinctive message. 

In effect, 'Ammar argues that there is more to the "divine demonstration" than 
the establishment of the simple fact of the resurrection of the dead. It is rather the 
demonstration of the truth of Christ's preaching and life as a whole. And therefore 
the bare bones of the "divine demonstration" apology as presented in the Ibrahim 
al-Tabaranl debate can and must be, in 'Ammar's apology, fleshed out with a 
considerable amount of material from the gospels. 

(c) Why were Christ's life-giving miracles insufficient? 

The question about preaching and the resurrection in 'Ammar's Kitab 
al-masa'il wa-l-agwibah leads directly on to a question about miracles and the 

94. IV33, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 230*-33*. 

95. ^ Jl jJL jLS' Jlij 4 »l _j_Jl jj> >■ ^ < ■ * ^^oLlII Jj-Jj 5 JL»-I j ^ ..L C Jl j 5Jj>-I j I C-Jli' 

jju <-ju\ ibid., 230*713-15. 


resurrection^ 96 ) Christ had raised the dead! Was that not a sufficient demonstration 
of the reality of the resurrection? Why did Christ have to die himself! 

'Ammar's response is that the least of Christ's signs should indeed have been 
sufficient, but that people in fact refused to believe without a visible demonstration of 
all that Christ had preached concerning the "spiritual resurrection and the ascension to 
the heavenly kingdom."^ And since there was no one worthier than Christ to play 
this role of the "first-fruits" of the resurrection/ 98 ) 



. there was no solution for him 

except to take upon himself the repugnance of death in front of them, 
then to be raised to spiritual life before them, 
and in his resurrection body (hay'at inbi'atihi) 
to be taken up into heaven opposite them; 
in order to establish in their breasts the truth of his promise to them 
concerning their ascension as spiritual beings 
in their resurrection bodies (hay'at qiyamatihim). 

B. The "Divine Demonstration" Apology: Ramifications 
L Christ's necessarily public, verifiable death 

(a) In the Kitab al-masa'il wa-l-agwibah of 'Ammar al-Basri 

The public character of the saving events has already been stressed in a 
number places, especially in the passage from 'Ammar al-Basri just cited: "there was 
no solution for [Christ] except to take upon himself the repugnance of death in front 
of them, then to be raised to spiritual life before them, and in his resurrection body to 
be taken up into heaven opposite them" In the Kitab al-masa'il wa-l-agwibah, 
'Ammar goes on to explore the issues raised by the manner of Christ's death in a 


IV,34, ibid., 233*. 

^SU-Jl ilLJl J\ ^yCj^) J>\")J\ (LJJl; ibid., 233V10-11. 
Ibid., lines 14-16. 


series of closely linked questions and answers/") 

Why did Christ not simply die an ordinary death, and then rise again?* 100 ) 
Because, according to 'Ammar, people might then suspect that he had not died at all, 
but was perpetrating a fraud (hida')\ Was it really necessary for a convincing 
demonstration that Christ die by crucifixion, reserved for the worst of criminals?* 101 ) 
Yes, replied 'Ammar, since precisely this form of death would be observed by the 
greatest number of people and reported most widely:* 102 * 


Don't you see that there is no form of execution 
more widely commented upon among [the people], 
more openly reported in their conversation, 

or more powerful in gathering crowds of spectators from the common people, 
than the death of crucifixion? 

But, continues 'Ammar's interlocutor, why did Christ not descend from the 
cross immediately after his death, so as to silence those who had taunted him 
(Matthew 27:40, 42) and bring his demonstration to completion? Why did Christ 
have to be laid in the tomb and buried in the dust?* 103 ' 'Ammar's response is, in the 
first place, that God does not respond to mockery. In the second place, if Christ had 
come down from the cross immediately there would again have been the possibility 
of doubt as to whether he had truly died. "Many of the people of obstinancy, discord, 
and injustice would have said: 'How may we know that he died a real death? 
Perhaps he let his head sag [as if in death] out of dissembling and guile, to make the 
onlookers believe that he had really and truly died!'"* 104 ) It was therefore fitting, 
according to 'Ammar, that Christ be buried in a guarded tomb, so as "to abolish from 
the people's hearts any suspicion or hypocritical doubt with respect to the veracity of 
his death."* 105 ' In the third place, rising from the dust of the tomb is an integral part 

99. IV35-37, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 234*-37*. 

100. Masalah 35, ibid., 234*. 

101. Masalah 36, ibid., 235*. 

102. Ibid., lines 9-10. 

103. Masalah 37, ibid., 235*-37*. 

104. -l— ' j "JjJj ? L»*_>w» t y oU o' pJLuJ j' U Jt.^ji) i^^ji-Jl ) >- « »■ ll } cJjqJl Jjk' Jj> jL«j 
«! L_jL L-jL ol» ai aJ* jj^ktJl " tLy, ibid., 236*/18-20. 

105. ^Ul y jt- Cy i>w» ^ ^Jlj <« < 'H jUa-iV; ibid., 237V1-2. 


of the divine demonstration, granting the believers confidence that, in the general 
resurrection, also those who lie in the dust will be raised to life. 

(b) In al-Gami' wuguh al-Iman 

Similar arguments are advanced by the author of al-Gami' wuguh al-iman, for 
example in Chapter 17, Question 25 ("On the death of Christ our Lord by means of 
public crucifixion"), which gives a fair summary of the "divine demonstration" 
apology :( 106 > 

t ; . * Aii*j j t AZ y JLn-i \L**~J jl "T-LJLP jli' Ljj ^_j-^JI jl 1 
O y>J\ o j J-* i^JUaJI j_ji L» j^l j 2 . Ol <Lvj ^^LJI jJLj ^^^SvJ 
i - - II tJLaJI Ljj £~~JI jL>-l iJJJU t^-UI Jj> ^-iS" a ( _ ? A>«^ UJ 

• Aj'j-'j 4JL9 jj^t ij ^LJI (1) 4jljU-J_j 
.<uLJ ^ JjJL; jl SjIjI <u> (J-ji jnSj <l*^>«JI ^ jj «uJUg jli'j 3 
jjj iLJ il^J jiC Jj*l^r-I ^ ^ <~> j\ ./ t J l jt iiJij 4 

i _^-r-' j^l tC***«JI JL*j Jl^g Ljj Tt-j-^^JI jl jJj 5 .4_ r i^JI 
<uL>» jij a^SCJj 6 '(j-i-ij plj t ^~.<>.t...» t j^-NI C.-~JI ^1 L-i>JI 

jl^j 8 .^LJI 

.a^LJL. ^ajl>*j»- ^ylp <>>t>- j o^SCj *>LJ Ljj £^~~»JI j-» (j^i jij iiJi 
J a ^JLL [f. 110 r ] <; ^U*, v^y^JI ^jl ^ j_^UI jl iUij 9 
Ljj ^l.. .■■■,« ,11 jl jii 10 (2) .jj^jiS" jLj SJj-IjJI SjU-JIj jl*-IjJI C. ■ ■ II 
kll»LJL (3) ^JLSw!l JUJ jil tOlj^Vl Lf-i ^yJl Oj-jJI iib jiu ^ 

.i>«j>- 4_JLp j^J ^Jj t«Ol j-**^l A>-l jj*i) 

^^LU ^jjiLJ t4jj» ,3^* jij j^JL*JI (4) t JUaJL Ljj j^^JI O j\-ki 11 
( jji 4-7-t-«-._i ^Lil ca ^-5j»j <*-3 jj>j 4-..L.^ JL^-i Jli ^ <»j-jLo C-*-jl lil t ^j>- 

.L»Lp OIjj»^/I ^jJLp JjULv-li t<Gj-» Jj«_i 

(1) MS ji^Jj. (2) MS (3) MS j-iCJl. (4) MS J., rt ll. 


1 Christ our Lord was going to rise after his death, so that his resurrection 
would be a means by which he gives people certainty (yuyaqqin al-nas) of the 
resurrection of the dead. 2 Because the kinds of death less [notorious] than 
crucifixion may be hidden from many people, Christ our Lord therefore chose the 
death of public crucifixion, so that people would see it with their own eyes, and so 
that he might [thus] make manifest his crucifixion and death. 

106. JUJL ljj ^,,,,.11 £>y j»\ BL or. 4950, ff. 109 v -110 r . 


3 His crucifixion was on Friday by his arrangement (bi-tawflq minhu), as he 
desired to be taken down that night. 4 That is because among the children of Israel 
the crucified person was not left on the cross on the night of the Sabbath. 5 If 
Christ our Lord had been crucified after the Sabbath, he would then have remained on 
the cross until the next Sabbath, and would have decomposed and not been buried. 
6 But he arranged for his crucifixion on Friday. 

7 Furthermore, he also arranged, in accordance with his purposes, that there be 
a man of the people who asked the governor that he be given him [i.e., Christ's body], 
and wrapped him in a garment, and laid him in a new tomb in which no one had 
been laid. 8 That was by the arrangement of Christ our Lord, so that the Jews would 
have no evidence for their denial of his resurrection. 9 That is because the tombs in 
the land of the West are buildings and caves, many people being laid in one building 
or one cave. 10 If Christ our Lord had been laid in one of those buildings containing 
the dead, one who denied his resurrection would have said, "He is one of these dead," 
and there would have been no evidence against him. 

11 Therefore the death of Christ our Lord was by public crucifixion by his 
arrangement, in order that it be manifest to the people. [This was] so that when he 
rose from the dead and one who had witnessed his crucifixion, death, and burial saw 
him, [that one] would infer [the fact of] his resurrection after his death, and thence 
induce [the reality of] the resurrection of the dead in general. 

A parallel passage in Chapter & 107 ) had added two other details. First, "Christ our 
Lord gave himself over to public execution on the best known of days, when there 
was the greatest congregation of people."* 108 ) And second, it was Christ who was 
behind the Jews' request that a guard be put on the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66) "so that 
they would have nothing to adduce as evidence" [that Christ's disciples had stolen the 
body]; 109 ) 

There is another question addressed by the author of al-Gami' wuguh 
al-iman concerning the clarity and unambiguity of the "divine demonstration" of the 
reality of the general resurrection: is it possible to rule out an elaborate demonic 
fraud? The author of al-Gami' believes it is. For example, in response to a typically 
Muslim question about Christ's human vicissitudes/ 1 10 ) he responds that God assumed 
a human "veil" (higab Allah alladl ihtagabaY n v for three reasons, the third (and most 
fully developed) of which is as follows:* 112 ) 

107. BL or. 4950, f. 39 rv . 

108. }Ui oc^'j .1^1 j^A J j|7,f,.ll o_^JJ 4_Ju jJL. \Zj £. .11 j£Jy, ibid., f. 39 r /l-2. 

109. ojsuu i»U j^J jjZL, [iJtfl V oV, ibid, line 21 

110. Ch. 18, Question #4; BL or. 4950, ff. 118 v -119 r . 

111. BL or. 4950, f. 118 v /17. As the author had made explicit in the previous question (Question #3, 
BL or. 4950, f. 117 v ), the author's use of the "veiling" terminology is dictated at least in part by an 
attempt to make contact with a Quranic verse, al-Sura (42):51: } '\ L*-^ ^[i 4^i£j j' j^J jtT L>j 
uU> Jj> ("It belongs not to any mortal that God should speak to him, except by revelation, 
or from behind a veil"). 

112. BL or. 4950, f. 119 r /2-ll. 


* <* * 

tOl y*\ 4 7 1 « j ^S- 4_> j jJjjL~J L» 4-~jL_p ^_$J J-t-o-J ... 1 

. |»LjI Alb Jbu 4JL*LJj 

't/^V i^ - ^* a LS*-*"J V jA* J^' ^ 
CajlJX^Jb ^j-O^Jlj <L>-L>«JI 4JL* j^O) 

iiJJu jix~J 4 


1 [God assumed a human veil] in order to enact for them in himself 

that from which they could induce his raising the dead, 

by his surrendering the humanity in which he had veiled himself to death 
by public crucifixion, 

and his resurrection after three days. 

2 Because Satan does not by his nature share in human nature's needs 

or experence of adversity, 

even though he may deceive people by appearing to them in human form, 

3 therefore Christ our Lord ate, drank, went the ways of human beings, 

and was seen to have [bodily] needs and the experience of adversity, 

4 so that the reality of his humanity be confirmed, 

and the reality of his death and his resurrection, 
from which the believer infers 
[the future reality of] his raising the dead in general. 

For the author of al-Gami', the efficacy of Christ's death and resurrection as a 
certainty-bestowing "preview" of the general resurrection requires that his be a 
real humanity subject to all the conditions of human existence (excepting sin),< 113 > 
since only in this way can the possibility of a Satanic counterfeit be ruled out. The 
author of al-Gami' explains Christ's post-resurrection appearances to the disciples, and 
particularly that to Thomas, in this same light. By seeing and touching the risen 
Christ the disciples verified that he was truly the human being they had known, who 
had undergone death and resurrection. Thus they had a sure ground for hope in the 
general resurrection/ 114 ) 

113. See also, for example, Chapter 9, BL or. 4950, f. 40 rv . 

114. Chapter 8, BL 4950, ff. 36 v -37 v ; or Chapter 17, Questions 29 and 30, f. 112 rv . 


(c) Comments 

From the above passages it is not difficult to appreciate the attractiveness and 
apologetic utility of the "divine demonstration" redescription of the story of Jesus 
Christ. In the first place, as discussed above, its point of departure is a doctrine 
indisputably common to Christians and Muslims: the general resurrection of the dead, 
and the life of the world to come. 

In the second place, this redescription is impressive in its capacity to absorb 
and make use of a great variety of detail from the biblical narrative and the 
ecumenical tradition. The death by crucifixion, which Muslims considered impossible 
to believe of an honored apostle of God/ 115 ) is explained rather simply as an integral 
part of God's plan for an unambiguous public demonstration of the reality of the 
resurrection that lies in the future of every human being. Minor-looking details of 
the story of the crucifixion, including the time and place of its occurrence, or Christ's 
burial in a new, unoccupied tomb upon which a guard had been set, fit convincingly 
into the narrative. The author of al-Gami' (whose christology always runs from 
"above" to "below") can even work from redemption as a "divine demonstration" to an 
apology for the Incarnation: the demonstration is subject to doubt unless its divine 
subject takes on a true humanity subject to all the conditions of humanity, including 
"[bodily] needs and the experience of adversity." 

In the third place, in the "demonstration" redescription of the story of Jesus as 
both 'Ammar and the author of al-Gami' develop it, Christ is the subject of the 
action. In response to Muslim charges that Christians portrayed Christ as weak and a 
failure -- especially in connection with the story of Christ's deceptive surrender to 
Satart 116 ' ~ the "demonstration" narrative provided the Christian apologist with a 
plausible way of asserting that Christ did not die out of weakness, nor did he go to 
his death as a puppet in someone else's play, but rather he himself was the author and 
director of the drama, managing all the details of stagecraft in order best to reach his 
audience. This is a subject to which we shall return shortly. 

2. Probing further 

Despite the clarity and apologetic utility of the "divine demonstration" apology 
as we have described it thus far, drawing heavily on the Kitab al-masa'il 
wa-l-agwibah (IV,32-37) of 'Ammar al-Basri, 'Ammar was not content to drop the 
matter at this point and move on to other topics. Instead, he devoted several pages of 

115. See above, pp. 145-46. 

116. See above, pp. 170-73. 


text to two additional questions* 117 ) which may summarize issues raised by Muslim 
mutakallimun confronted with the "demonstration" apology, or which may simply be 
'Ammar's own questions as he weighed the apology for overall coherence and 
persuasive power. 

Earlier in his discussion, 'Ammar had made reference to Christ's death "in front 
of" the people (quddamahum), his resurrection "before them" (amamahum), and his 
ascension "opposite them" (tugahahum)S US) He then proceeded to present his 
arguments for the fittingness of Christ's dying in a public, widely-reported, and 
crowd-drawing manner.* 1 19 ' 'Ammar's "questioner" goes on to ask, in effect: does this 
train of argument not imply that Christ's resurrection (and ascension) should have 
been just as public, widely-reported, and crowd-drawing as his crucifixion? But, then, 
"what prevented him . . . from rising from the tomb openly by day, and then showing 
himself alive and in public to all those who saw his death on the cross?"* 120 ) 

In a surprising twist of the argument, 'Ammar responds that this would 
not have been appropriate. Christ's adversaries and killers were not worthy of seeing 
his glorious resurrection body. If they had seen it, they would have identified it as 
his demon (saytanuhu), by which he had driven out demons (cf. Mark 3:22). 
Furthermore, it would not have been just for Christ to appear to the people of one 
city, but not of another. If Christ's resurrection appearances in Jerusalem had been 
public, fairness would have required him to repeat his crucifixion, death, burial, and 
resurrection for every people in every locality - which is obviously impossible. 

Christ's mission was, all the same, universal in scope. This universality was 
accomplished through the ministry of the apostles, who called the communities of the 
world to Christ's obedience and worship, proclaimed his crucifixion, death, 
resurrection and ascension, and performed evidentiary miracles, even raising the dead 
"in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified, died, and was raised."* 121 ) It 
was in this way that the peoples, communities, and rulers of the world "became 
certain (ayqanat) that he is the generous and merciful Lord who underwent pain, 
suffering, crucifixion, and shame in the body of his humanity, seeking their 
salvation."* 122 ) 

This leads inexorably to the next question, or, rather, to a return to a previous 
question. Why could Christ's death not have been as private as his resurrection 
appearances to the disciples? What need was there for Christ to deliver himself into 

117. IV.38-39, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 237*-42*. 

118. In Mas'alah 34. See above, p. 183. 

119. In Mas'alah 36. See above, p. 184. 

120. T jLf>- u»- t»_ : l ^jl* A SJ L u t is'jij* £rr" J ?-' ji ^ ' U^fj i-J^Le- ^» fy^t <i" <j-* ' ' ' 4 -"— ■* 
Mas'alah 38, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 237V8-10. The response summarized below runs from 
pp. 237*-39*. 

121. C-^Jlj oL.j <r JU> ^Jtfl i^oUl ^^-o L; ibid., 239VU-12. 

122. (^j^UJ L^*; 4zLj\ t jo, ^ jl^Jl ) ^JLaJl i ^Ti\ ) ii\ ^oJl ^ J\ 1> J\ *J u C-iil y, 
ibid., lines 14-16. 


the hands of his enemies?(> 23 > 'Ammar's response is that Christ could indeed have died 
privately, had he been confident of his apostles' firmness of conviction (yaqin 
rusulihi). However, many passages from the gospels attest to the frailty of their faith. 
If Christ had died in their presence only, they would have come to doubt the reality 
of his death, especially when adversaries disputed their claims. And thereby they 
would have been disqualified as Christ's missionaries, able to show forth evidentiary 
miracles. Therefore it was indeed fitting that Christ die publicly, "so that no one 
would find the possibility of disputing with them in the matter of his death.'^ 124 ) By 
making his death an incontestable public fact, Christ did away with any grounds for 
doubts among his disciples, and "qualified them first to be eyewitnesses of his 
resurrection appearances, and afterwards to be sent to the masses showing forth 
[miraculous] signs."< 125 > 

What has happened here? In effect, 'Ammar's probing of the "demonstration" 
apology has led him to recognize the lack of correspondence between the public 
nature of Christ's death and the private nature of his resurrection appearances to 
selected followers. In order to address this imbalance he has redefined the apology, 
adding a level of dialectic to it, and to some degree subordinating it to a different line 
of apologetic discourse. Christ's crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection are no 
longer seen in the first instance as a demonstration for the people in general, but as a 
demonstration for his disciples, to qualify them for their ministry of preaching 
accompanied by evidentiary miracles - about which 'Ammar and all the early Arabic 
Christian apologists have much to say when they turn to the question of discerning 
the true religion.* 126 ) The "divine demonstration" of the reality of the general 
resurrection is indeed intended for all people, but of necessity it reaches them 
indirectly, in the kerygma of those who go out from Jerusalem into all the world, and 
who are believed because of the signs they perform in the name of "Jesus of 
Nazareth, who was crucified." 

123. Masalah 39, ibid., 239*-42*. 

124. *Zy ^ f+A* Ji UL__. <JJS ^ Jb-i o>« V U-£); ibid., 242V2-3. 

125. 'j^>-' ol^l • I^l, ^l>*Jl ,^1 ^ ilL-^Jlj d-*JJ ^ oU-J^/l t^jjj iL-U-J |»*1a'; ibid., lines 5-6. 

126. See below, pp. 277-83. 


III. Excursus: The Crucified and His Crucifiers 

A. Introduction 

1. Christ's freedom 

We have already noted that one of the strengths of the "divine demonstration" 
apology was that it provided Christians involved in the Christian-Islamic controversy 
with a framework within which they could consistently and credibly claim that Christ 
was the free subject of his crucifixion, death, and burial. Many of the texts that we 
have already considered make this point clearly. To these we may add the following 
passage from 'Ammar al-Basn, concerning the necessity of Christ's death by 
crucifixion (rather than a respectable death in bed):* 127 ) 






(1) Ed. lil. Hayek has corrected the reading of the MS here, but there is a 
typographical error: both the original and corrected readings are given as lil. 

127. Kitab al-masail wa-l-agwibah, IV.35, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 234*. 



1 He who in his foreknowledge knew 

that to drive doubt about his death from the hearts of the common people 
he had no alternative but to make it manifest to them in his body, 

2 chose the times, according to his kindness, 

directed matters by manifesting himself to them, according to his wisdom, 
until he found the opportune time that he desired for that. 

3 So it was, 

that when his enemies gathered in the midst of a crowd of people to kill him, 
and he saw that the opportune time for expelling doubt 
from the hearts of the common people had come, 
(a time for which he was watching,) 

4 then he gave himself up into their hands, 

and left them to kill and crucify him as they desired, 
according to his wish, 
his will, 

and his desire, 

5 in order to do away with doubt about his death in the hearts of all [the peoplel 

The subject of practically all the verbs is Christ. It was he who chose the opportune 
moment and directed the course of events. It was he who gave himself up and left 
his adversaries to kill and crucify him! And lest any reader miss the point, 'Ammar 
adds that all of this was according to Christ's wish (hawah), will (masi'ah), and desire 

We find the same insistence on Christ's agency in his passion in al-Gami' wuguh 
al-iman. We recall the passage cited above which emphasized that it was Christ who 
brought all the details of his crucifixion and burial into conformity with his will so as 
to make his death plain to the largest possible number of people, and to silence 
gainsayers. Affirmation of Christ's freedom in his passion was so important to the 
author of al-Gami' that he included its negation among "the viewpoints that exclude 
their adherents from Christianity":* 128 ) 

l» ^ 4~Jl> J>-^ [sic] <~Jl> Ll.j ^- r ..>Jl jl j^Jj -_Jj tU^ kJi 


Chapter 14 ("On the Viewpoints that Exclude their Adherents from Christianity"), #11, BL 
or. 4950, ff. 81 rv . Related passages including a number of biblical examples of Christ's 
freedom are found in Chapters 8 (ff. 37 v -39 v ) and 9 (ff. 39 v -41 v ). 


Ji'"' j_^ V ji J~— IlJj £^-~JJ jlT" jJ oL ,>*j^ 3 .Ll»*>U» A_. L» 
*]Ji li^i U; J>Ji *J jli 4 .aJ| ^Ul ja jlT, t4i* jl^ (2)r L. 
j^>*J [f. 81 v ] aJ \j (ill £_* Si' j-i aJ ^^JLi to jkijj aJLp .a j j 

IaJL>-\j jl jl>-* ^-J L5 « M Ajl '.dyL> al Luj ^ ■...■,<> .11 tjj&] c-u-j-Ij 
jjJL aJjJLL. ^ jL^ 6 «.LaJl3j1 jl jLkL. lf«-*»l jl jlkJL- 
^Uj-j^L ^-^t-j V jt ^^Ip y>> iAZjA JL*j a-~a; L5i >« T ; jt L5 i* i 
JLiJlj A_iJ ^^^Ifl Jj-^l JLij 7 .jail i>-L^ Ji' a Lr Jjt 

The words enclosed in square brackets are added in order to complete the author's 
thought. (1) MS Ji.. (2) MS U1S". (3) MS J, 3 \. (4) Sic. JL^1 is closer to the biblical 


1 Whoever claims that any sort of need or experience of adversity came or was 
brought upon Christ our Lord — I mean death and crucifixion, as well as lesser 
experiences of adversity — [came or was brought upon him] by means of coercion, and 
who does not believe that Christ our Lord entered himself of his own will into all that 
came or was brought upon him, [is not a member of the Christian community]. 

2 That [entrance of Christ into the realm of need and experience of adversity 
took place] because of his desire to guide and direct us, to free and redeem us, and to 
inspire in us that in which is our benefit. 3 And we believe that our Lord Christ 
had the means to avoid that which came upon him and which people brought upon 
him. 4 Whoever does not believe in what we have mentioned concerning that, and 
does not take it to heart and speak it plainly, has no fellowship with the children of 
God, and no liberation or redemption or salvation from death in the world to come. 

5 The witness to what we have mentioned concerning the fact that what came 
or was brought upon Christ our Lord was according to his will is Christ our Lord 
[himself], when he said: "No one can take my soul from me. I have authority to lay 
it down, and I have authority to take it up again" [John 10:18]. 6 Furthermore, the 
one who in his power is capable of reviving himself after his death is even more 
capable of avoiding the experience of pain, or of being free from every need. 7 The 
apostle Paul said: "He hid himself and adopted the form of a servant, and humbled 
himself unto death, the death of the cross" [Philippians 2:7-8]. 

The emphasis on Christ's freedom in his passion is by no means new with the 
arabophone Christian apologists, but is frequently stressed in the tradition, particularly 
in the Gospel according to St. John, and frequently in the Fathers, where one may 

129. The author concludes this bab with the citation from St. Athanasius' letter to Bishop Maximus 
reproduced and translated below, p. 237. 


take as an example John Chrysostom's commentaries on the passion narrative/ 130 ) 
Christ who withered the fig tree could have destroyed the cross as well/ 131 ) but he 
freely chose to undergo crucifixion, himself ordering the events of his death and 
burial so as to perfect his obedience to the Father and to fulfill his saving purposes/ 132 ) 
Stockmeier has pointed out that the emphasis on the freedom with which 
Christ chose to suffer and die had a specific apologetic purpose in Chrysostom's 
thought: it clearly differentiates Christ from the dying-and-rising deities (Attis, 
Adonis, Osiris) of the mystery religions, who do not die freely but are rather bound to 
natural cycles/ 133 ) The Christ who chooses freely in history therefore stands opposed 
to and unabsorbable by the unhistorical (mythical and magical) understandings of 
reality widespread in the late antique world/ 134 ) In the Islamic environment, the 
confession of Christ's freedom remained apologetically significant, but for a different 
reason. The issue at stake was no longer the historical character of redemption, but 
rather the historical success or failure of the one claimed to be redeemer. Christian 
apologists who argued and wrote in Arabic invoked Christ's freedom in order to 
assert that -- contrary to appearances! -- the one confessed as Lord and God was 
not weak, under compulsion, and finally defeated in the events of his passion. 

2. The Guilt of the Jews 

If all Christians agreed upon Christ's freedom with respect to his death by 
crucifixion, another indisputable conviction of the early Church was the responsibility 
and guilt of the Jews for that crucifixion. Christian theological anti-Judaism has its 
roots in the New Testament; the single verse with the most notorious history of 
interpretation is Matthew 27:25, when the evangelist Matthew has the crowds cry, 
"His blood be on us and on our children."^) In the early second-century Apology of 
Aristides, as Griffith has observed, the statement that Christ was "crucified by the 
Jews" has almost credal force* 1 36 > -- despite the fact that it was the Romans who 
ultimately authorized and carried out the execution. By the fourth century, the 
epithets xpioioictovoc, ("Christ-killer"), xptorocpovoc, ("Christ-murderer"), and even 
GeoKtovoc, ("God-killer") were frequently applied to Jews in Christian writings/ 137 ) 

130. See STOCKMEIER, Chrysostomus (1966), esp. 42-43, 55-56. 

131. Ibid., 55 (citation from Horn, in Mt 67,1). 

132. Ibid., 42-43. 

133. Ibid., 56. 

134. Ibid., 43-44. 

135. In a curse-formula preserved in a number of Arabic manuscripts of Sinai, Bishop Solomon of Mt. 
Sinai (d. after 1002 A.D.) threatens book-thieves with: "may his fate be with those who said, 'His 
blood be on us and on our children'." See, for example, his waqf statement in Sinai ar. 75, 
transcribed in CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61), II, 134/5-6. 

136. GRIFFITH, "Jews" (1988), 74, 91 (note 43), referring to HARRIS, Aristides (1893), esp. 33 (ET of 
Armenian fragment). 


The earliest Arabic Christian literature, which takes shape following a period 
of renewed anti-Jewish polemic on the part of Christians living within the Dar 
a/-/s , /am, (138) shares fully in the traditional theological anti-Judaism. The 
Christian-Muslim-Jewish controversial "triangle" in the Dar al-Islam did produce new 
Christian apologetic tactics,* 1 39 > but whether Christians tried to make common cause 
with Muslims against the Jews or to assimilate Islam theologically to Judaism, the 
anti-Judaism underlying the procedure is obvious. There can therefore be no surprise 
when, for example, we find the Jews described with the epithet qatilat 
Allah ("God-killers") in Abu Ra'itah's first epistle on the Trisagion addition,* 140 ) or 
when the Jews are described as ahl ta'at al-Saytan ("the people of Satan's obedience") 
in Abu Qurrah's "On the Necessity of Redemption."* 141 ) 

This Christian insistence on the guilt of the Jews provided alert Muslim writers 
with polemical opportunities. For example, in the part of his al-Radd 'aid l-Nasara 
preserved only in fragments cited by al-Safi b. al-'Assal, 'All al-Tabari pointed out 
what he believed to be a contradiction in the Christians' scripture: "He was not a 
savior to the Jews, although it is said 'To you is born this day a savior' [Luke 2:11]."* 142 ) 
If this could be easily answered - after all, many Jews did come to faith in Christ* 143 ) 
- what of Christ's own prayer from the cross, "Father, forgive them; for they do not 
know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34)? 

We do not find this question in any ninth-century Muslim text at our disposal, 
but it is dealt with in apologetic contexts by both 'Ammar al-Basri in his Kitab 
al-masd'il wa-l-agwibah and by the author of al-Gami' wuguh al-iman. It is the 
author of al-Gdmi\ in his Chapter 17 responding to questions about the gospels from 
those who take verses out of context, who has the simplest response: Christ prayed 
for his Roman crucifiers. As for the Jews, they knew perfectly well what they were 
doing, and will never be forgiven.* 144 ) 

'Ammar goes into the matter in considerably greater depth. His "questioner" 
had claimed that the Jews deserve forgiveness on two counts: because Christ prayed 
"Father, forgive them" and because Christ himself admitted that "they do not know 
what they are doing".* 145 ) 'Ammar begins his response by reviewing the various 
explanations of "Father, forgive them" with which he was familiar: (a) Christ prayed 
for the Father's temporary forbearance, so that the Jews might complete their 
transgression and the Father take comprehensive vengeance later (as happened at the 

137. See the references in LAMPE, Lexicon (1961), 1531, 1533, 626. 

138. See above, pp. 120-21. 

139. See GRIFFITH, "Jews" (1988). 

140. GRAF, Abu Rait a (1951), 90/15. 

141. BACHA, (1904), 87/2. 

142. t^A^j. ^Jl p£J oJji) JJ oij t3>H JLJ Uliw j^, J,; MURQUS GIRGIS, Sahaih (1927-28), 119/9-10. 

143. This is al-Safi's response; ibid, lines 10-12. 

144. BL or. 4950, f. 110 rv . 

145. In Kitab al-masail wa-l-agwibah, IV,41, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 243*-47*. 


hands of Titus), (b) Christ prayed for the Father's temporary forbearance so that 
some of the Jews might have a chance to repent, (c) Christ indeed prayed for the 
forgiveness of all his crucifiers. (d) Christ prayed for forgiveness -- but only for the 
Romans. 'Ammar is satisfied with none of these explanations. He does not believe 
that the point of Christ's prayer is to ask for either forbearance (as in (a) and (b)) o r 
forgiveness (as in (c) and (d)). Instead, he who had taught his followers to pray for 
their persecutors (Matthew 5:44) gives an example, while hanging on the cross, of the 
kind of prayer that earns a heavenly reward. But his prayer is solely an example: 
"he did not intend with his prayer for forgiveness to request forgiveness for themT"*) 
If he had intended that they be forgiven, he could have forgiven them himself, since 
the gospels plainly show that he had the authority to forgive sins (and to confer this 
authority upon others). And thus "the Jews received no benefit from Christ's prayer 
for their forgiveness, . . . rather, it added shame to their shame and torment to their 
torment"/ u 7) 

As for the second part of Christ's prayer, "they do not know what they are 
doing", this merely means that in their ignorance the Jews had not recognized Christ's 
divinity and lordship -- and thus dared to do what they did to Christ 
(cf. 1 Corinthians 2:8). They are not judged or forgiven on the basis of this 
ignorance, but are condemned on the basis of their ungrateful reception of the one 
who came among them doing nothing but good. 

This exegesis of Luke 23:34 will undoubtedly strike modern readers as strange, 
but it provides a striking example of the extent to which the guilt of the Jews for the 
crucifixion of Christ was for a ninth-century Middle Eastern Christian apologist 
simply a given, with which any evidence to the contrary had to be interpreted into 

3. Both/and? 

Christ freely chose to undergo crucifixion and death, in order to fulfill his 
saving purposes. The Jews are responsible - and guilty - for Christ's crucifixion and 
death. For the Christian Fathers -- and for Arabic-speaking Christians under Abbasid 
rule — both statements were givens. But could they be held together? How could the 
Jews be held guilty for acting in a manner that fulfilled Christ's salvific will? St. John 
Chrysostom touched on the dilemma when he asked (without afterwards giving a real 
answer), "Tell me, are the Jews to be praised because they crucified Christ?"( 148 > 

146. p«J JyL^Jt uJLt jUjC Ji V . . .; ibid., 245*/8. 

147. p^jlJU ^yJj LlJL*j i~+jy>- L_)>- j^AJl j J-j . . . t p_(J 3 yLi-JL — <Jl »Uo ^ j j-f-J I £_iJ . . ; ibid., 

148. ^Enaiveiq, euie noi, touc; 'Ioufiaiouq, oxi xov Xpiotov eoxaupwoav; Adv. Jud. 8,5, cited in 
STOCKMEIER, Chrysostomus (1966), 133. 


B. The Crucified: Willing? His Crucifiers: Guilty? 

1. The dilemma and the Muslim controversialists 

In the catholicos Timothy's account of his dialogue with the Abbasid caliph 
al-Mahdl, the latter responded to Timothy's assertion that Christ gave himself over to 
death freely with the comment: "The Jews, then, have no blame [attaching to them] 
in the matter of his death, if they accomplished and fulfilled his willH 149 ) Shortly 
afterwards, al-Mahdi formulated this perception as a dilemma-question/ 150 ) 

Which of the two do you say: was Christ willing to be crucified, or not? 
If he was willing to be crucified, why then are the Jews who fulfilled his will 
cursed and despised? 

But if he was not willing to be crucified, and he was crucified [all the same], he 
was weak whereas the Jews were strong. How can he be called "God" who was unable 
to deliver himself from the hands of his crucifiers, whose will appeared much stronger 
than his? 

A half-century and more later, essentially the same dilemma appeared in Abu 
'Isa al-Warraq's Kitab al-radd 'aid l-firaq al-talat min al-Nasara. If the occasion for 
al-Mahdi's dilemma-question was Timothy's assertion of Christ's freedom, the context 
of Abu 'Isa's version of the question was a discussion of God's tadbir. Abu 'Isa had 
heard Melkite Christians claim that "God died according to his tadbir" where tadbir 
represents the Greek oiKovop.ia and the Syriac mdabranuta: not only God's 
world-rule (which is also denoted by the Arabic verb dabbara in the Qur'an),' 151 ) but 
also His "ways among things human," particularly in the Incarnation of the Word/ 152 ) 
In his attempt to demonstrate the nonsensical nature of the Christian claim, Abu 'Isa 
distinguished between two aspects comprised by the verb dabbara in its normal 
usage: that of the ordinance or arrangement of a plan or activity, and that of its 
execution. He then saw three possibilities for interpreting the phrase "God died 
according to his tadbir": (1) God ordained and carried out His own death; or 
(2) God ordained that creatures carry out His death; or (3) creatures ordained and 
carried out His death. Abu Isa worked out these possibilities as follows/ 153 ) 

149. Syriac text in MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 116/1/8-10. For this and the following citation see also 
the Arabic versions in CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 143 (#34-35), and PUTMAN/SAMIR, 
Eglise (1975), 39* (#207, 210). 

150. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 116/2/1-10. 

151. E.g., Yunis (10):3: ^\ ^Ju J.yJ\ Jl* (j^—l -J . . . (". . . then sat Himself upon the Throne, 
directing the affair"). 

152. For the wide range of christological uses of oiKovouta, see LAMPE, Lexicon (1961), 941-42. 

153. PLATTI, Incarnation (1987), 77-78 (#68). 


:^+J JUL. 1 

V_JL<»J Jii jjj aJ^M jl 

\dy~~>*j> t Til j JjiJI IJL* j^^U «^JU»j a jJLi jj-iJLi 5 
jl tojlo Jj^ij a J^H- 5 ./r?- 1 -' ^«<*'j 'pfr^ •L-i'VI _jl Lili' 4JLJj ^ 

a ^jL»I_j a ojA^9j a j-talj a yjj>) a j-if-j aj j^J tj>-L>«JI 0* ^j^T y iUjj 
^ aj-*j ajJLj jl 4 IJL* a_^Jlij jl (j^*! lilj 10 loyJzj 

\^ L. IJLft ^iu ^ jli' jlj iajliCjIj <~>}jj> 

Jsill jlS' ji_> ta ji'i L>oi L. Ji' «u!p jl>- 4<uU IJL* jL>- lilj 11 
^ lit -J *iitj tJL*jt pi'-iLP ilJi j^Jj 12 'JLf dJi j£\ 

Qla..^ ^ j-^»l ^^Lf) «A>-Uj <JlP j jI aJlA jl 13 

^ S : II j pJUl OLiv* LjJL--j Ll^J I ^LfJ 14 .^^JjJli^JI ^-jJLs-i^JI 

(1) Ed. 


1 Next, let it be said to them: 

2 If they claim that [the tadblr according to which "God died"] was 
God's ordinance and execution, how do you deem permissible and right that they 
should claim that God ordained and carried out the killing and crucifixion of Himself? 

3 And if it was He who ordained that [act of killing and crucifying] for His 
creatures [to carry out], [realize that] there is nothing more correct than His ordinance 
and that which His ordinance brings to pass; 4 and no creature is more correct in his 
activity, or more precise in deed and execution, than the one who proceeds according 
to the ordinance the Creator has ordained for him, and who does the deed which 
affects God (may He be exalted!) according to the ordinance that He ordained should 


be and be brought to fulfillment. 

5 Therefore, according to this line of argument, those who killed and crucified 
Him acted correctly and rightly! 6 Their acts of crucifying and killing Him were the 
most appropriate things for them [to have done], and the truest enactment and activity 
they could have undertaken, as long as it was He who ordained them and caused them 
to come to pass, so that they attained and befell Him. 

7 And if they claim that [the tadbir according to which "God died"] was the 
ordinance and execution of creatures with respect to Him, and not according to 
His will and His ordinance, we say: 

8 This is other than what you presume in your statement, "That [death] attained 
Him according to tadbir, not according to sense or physical proximity." 9 This means, 
if you follow your principles justly and truly, that you are obliged [to conclude] that 
creatures subjugated [the Creator], defeated Him, beat Him, humiliated Him, crucified 
Him, killed Him, put Him to death, and buried Him! 10 For if it is possible that 
they subjected Him to some of these things, then it is possible that they subjected Him 
to other sorts of injury and adversity, although some is sufficient! 

11 If these things are permissible with respect to Him, then all that we have 
previously mentioned is permissible with respect to Him, even if being killed is the 
worst of all these things; 12 but you treat some of these things as more improbable, 
reacting to them with the strongest revulsion. 

13 Making these matters permissible with respect to Him is to place Him in 
[the category of things described by] the attributes of temporal creatures! 14 May our 
God and Lord be greatly exalted above the attributes of disparagement and deficiency 
{si fat al-damm wa-l-naqs)] 

Once the first possibility (a sort of divine suicide) is dismissed, what remains is 
essentially the same dilemma that we heard from al-Mahdi, but now in the form: did 
creatures (i.e., the Jews) kill God (i.e., Christ) according to his ordinance, or not?(' 54 ) If 
according to his ordinance, they acted rightly. And if not, then there can be no end 
to "the attributes of disparagement and deficiency" that may be predicated of God! 

If al-Mahdi and Abu 'Isa al-Warraq came to the dilemma from the side of the 
will of Christ (in particular, its freedom) or of God (as comprised in His tadbir), 'All 
al-Tabari came to it from the opposite side: the guilt of the Jews. In his al-Radd 'aid 
l-Nasdra, having discussed the contradiction between Luke 2:11 ("to you [Jews] is born 
this day a savior'O^s) and the usual Christian affirmations concerning the Jews, he 
wrote;( 156 > 

154. This construal of the dilemma, in which it is God's control of events rather than Christ's freedom 
that is at issue, appears in the Greek "Controversy between a Saracen and a Christian," {PG 94, 
1335-48; the passage in question here is at 1340D) attributed sometimes to John of Damascus, 
sometimes to Theodore Abu Qurrah (see A.-T. KHOURY, Theologiens (1969), 68-82; SAHAS, 
Heresy (1970), 99-102). It had earlier been addressed by St. Augustine of Hippo; see 
BLUMENKRANZ, Judenpredigt (1946), 190. 

155. See above, p. 195. 

156. According to the brief citations in the refutation of al-Safi b. al-'Assal. I have edited the text 
from Vatican ar. 33 (Egypt, 1305 A.D.), ff. 146 r -147 r [A], Vat. ar. 38 (Egypt, 1361 A.D.), f. 109 r [B]; 
MURQUS GIRGAS, Sahaih (1927-28), 119-120 [C]. 


(1) C: L^. (2) B: 1^*^. (3) A: a^JU. (4) C: omit. (5) C: <3». 

[As for] the crucifixion of Christ, if it was according to the will of God and of 
Christ, and if it was obligatory for the salvation of the world from sin and death, then 
Satan and the Jews have good fortune in this noble deed! But if Christ was coerced 
and compelled in that [crucifixion], then he is to be disparaged rather than praised! . . . 

On the Day of Resurrection the Jews will have the right to plead that they 
merely intended and did that which they knew had the approval of God! 

A final example of Muslim use of the dilemma-question suggests that it 
probably circulated independently as a highly-regarded fragment of polemic that 
controversialists could insert into their conversations or their writings wherever 
convenient. In "The Story of Wasil" the dilemma appears as one of a series of 
unconnected polemical sallies:^ 57 ) 

(1) Ed. o'. (2) Ed. sic. We would expect the subject to be 'Isa: oilj'j aJ'i— . U ^Ja*'- 


GRIFFITH, "Bashir" (1990), 318. The dilemma of Christ's freedom and the Jews* guilt follows a 
question concerning Christ's "two spirits in a single body," and precedes the question of to whom 
Christ's prayer was addressed. 



The sayh said: I ask you, my son: do you worship the cross as a sign of 'Isa b. 
Maryam, because he was crucified? 
Basir said: Yes. 

The sayh said: Was this with his approval, or with disapproval? 

Basir said: This is like the previous [dilemma-question]! What do you want to 
say? If I say, "With his approval," you will say: "How blessed you are. They [sic] 
were given what they [sic] asked for and desired." And if I say, "With disapproval," 
you will say: 'Then why do you worship that which cannot protect itself?" 

2. The dilemma and the Christian controversialists 

The efficacy with which Muslim controversialists wielded the dilemma-question 
concerning the freedom of Christ's death and the guilt of the Jews is reflected in the 
fact that nearly all of their Christian counterparts - the catholicos Timothy/ 158 ) Abu 
Qurrah/ 159 ) Abu Ra'itah/ 160 ' 'Ammar al-Basri,( 161 ) Eustathius,< 162 > the author of al-Gami' 
wuguh al-imdn^ l63 i - found themselves obliged to respond to it/ 164 ) 

(a) Counter-questions 

While each of these authors responded in his own way, nearly all of them - 
'Ammar al-Basri is the one exception^ 165 ) -- follow the program enunciated by the 
catholicos Timothy: "I responded to these [questions] with other questions, as 
follows . . ."< 166 > The cojmfer-questions and -examples with which Christian apologists 
replied to the Muslims' dilemma-question were of two main types. 

(i) God and the fact of creaturely disobedience 

The first type involves the application of the very same dilemma pressed by 
the Muslim controversialists to acts of rebellion against God other than the Jews' 
crucifixion of Christ. Consider, for example, the response of the monk Eustathius:< 167 > 

158. Syriac text in MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 116/1/8-120/1/19 [ET 43-47]. Arabic versions: 
CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 143-46 (#34-38); PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 39*-40* (#207-13). 

159. "On Christ's Freely Chosen Death," GRIFFITH, "Sayings" (1979), or SAMIR, "Salb" (1984), 417-19. 

160. In "On the Incarnation," GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 60-63 (#32-33). 

161. In the Kitab al-masail wa-l-agwibah, IV,40, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 242*-43*. 

162. In the Kitab Ustat, Mingana chr. ar. 52, ff. 49 v -51 r . 

163. Chapter 18, #5, BL or. 4950, f. 119 rv ; SAMIR, "Salb"(1984), 414-17. 

164. A survey of some of this material is found in SAMIR, "Somme" (1986), 111-17. 

165. For his response, see pp. 203-4 below. 

166. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 116/2/10-11. 

167. Mingana chr. ar. 52, ff. 49 v -50 r . 


^Ji^j JIji»JI tm »j4A (2) *ja\ Js. ilj cJ\ L. :<"<J JUJ 1 

S'iUi ^j-iyk jilil t(!«jU— 1 l cJL>-) ill Cotjtl iJJ J^JL ^kJ| 
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jl Jl*_> j \ la . .:. 1 1 4 : la . ~* 5 ' <uJL- jj £ \ _j <uj>- ^ ^ , ^ >- _^ <u jJL ^*-AJL;l 
L^jI 6 Jlj Jl Jl Jlij tUki l^>«J ti&^^LJI ^ijl "tS'M. jlS' 

Jo-\ ^ (V ^y^r N J'" : Dli c«4jl* Ui^j iiJi j IS')) :Jli jii 7 

1.4JLP ^uij 4^5ojlj 4jw» jlS' -Ai L j t 

jLLj ijj^jJI ^ aJi t»_jl L* Jki-^j >L>t_; t«L<»j j^v" -JL* ji_j 8 

((?4-l» U»j j-jLj jUil (4) C..L«j lil t<GjjJ £-J> y> L»» :<J 

a^OJL jJUUIJ l5)r J-^ ISf ^aj^I J«r Jii 4A1I Jl Jji: lISU 9 

L$j^>" t ^ > /t& 

SU-i L»lj 5l>-U L»l t^-fJip iii^-Jlj 4L..a«-o-H c3j-a» ('.^U:^ 

(1) MS r< J. (2) MS 15^.1. (3) MS (4) MS J*i. (5) Stc. I am uncertain of the 

function of this phrase. 


1 Let it be said to him: What do you respond to the man from among the 
expert disputers and insight-obscurers who says to you: "What do you think of God 
(may His names be exalted!): is He omnipotent (qadir) or otherwise? 2 And if He is 
omnipotent, what then do you say about people given to acts of disobedience (ahl 
al-ma'asi), such as the arts of magic, murder, and adultery, and other obscene things? 
3 Or about idolaters, and also polytheists (musrikln), atheists (zanadiqah), and so on 
from among the kinds of unbelief (kufr)? 4 Or furthermore about those who killed 
the prophets, whom He supported with His power, favored with His revelation, and 
honored with His message? 5 Or finally about the "satanic-ness" of Satan (saytanat 
al-Saytan), who, after he had been the most exalted of the angels, made bold and 
overstepped his bounds, claiming to be a God and a Lord? 6 Did [all] that occur 
with God's approval, or without His approval?" 

7 If he says: "That occurred with God's approval," we say: "[Then] no sin 
(gunah) is ascribed to anyone who disbelieves, regardless of what he did or committed 
or dared!" 

8 And if he says: "Without approval," then he is obliged to admit the like of 
what he indicated [in his dilemma-question] with respect to the weakness [of God], and 
it may be said to him: "What is the proper meaning of His 'power,' if deeds are done 
without His approval?" 

9 But we say that God has set recompense for the doers of obedience and of 
disobedience. 10 The one who obeys is made fast in his obedience for a happy 
outcome, out of justice to him; the one who disobeys is punished for his disobedience, 
without rancor towards him; 11 and God (may He be blessed and exalted!) does not 


suffer any harm, but the harm created through disobedience and the disapproval are 
upon them [who disobeyed], either now or later, on the Day of Judgment. 

Other examples of human (and angelic/demonic) sinfulness and rebellion may 
be added to those given by Eustathius. The catholicos Timothy discussed Adam's 
expulsion from Paradise.* 168 ) Abu Ra'itah brought up the death of the (Muslim) 
martyrs.' 169 ' And both Abu Ra'itah and Abu Qurrah mentioned the case of blasphemy 
(al-iftira') against God, Abu Ra'itah citing al-Nisa' (4):50, -Oil lS JLp OjjzJlj ^xS" JiL>\ 
v^JLSvJI ("See how they invent lies about God!")/ 170 ) and Abu Qurrah personalizing the 
issue by asking his interlocutor directly, "Don't you claim that we [Christians] 
blaspheme against your God?"' 171 ' In each and every case, one can pose the exact 
same question posed by the Muslims with respect to the death of Christ: did this take 
place with God's approval, or not? If with God's approval, those who committed 
these acts of rebellion and disobedience are blameless. If without God's approval, then 
God is weak! 

The point, of course, is that the Muslims' debate-question poses a dilemma as 
difficult for the Muslims themselves as it is for Christians, a dilemma which can only 
be resolved by means of a careful reflection about the relationship between divine 
sovereignty and creaturely disobedience. Eustathius began such reflection in the final 
paragraph cited above. Acts of human (and angelic) disobedience do not prove God 
weak, nor do Him any harm, but will all be requited, though perhaps not before the 
Day of Judgment. 

(ii) Evil intentions, good outcomes 

A second kind of response to the Muslim dilemma-question involves the rather 
obvious distinction to be made between intention and outcome. 'Ammar al-Basri,' 172 ' 
for example, points out that, at least in "the justice of God's judgment and the 
uprightness of His ways,"' 173 ' it is "through intention (niyyah) and conscience (damir) 
that the servant merits the reward from his lord, and through them that he deserves 
the worst of punishment."' 174 ' As for the Jews, they crucified Christ out of hostility, 
not out of a desire to benefit humankind, and God will punish them according to 

168. Syriac text in MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 117/1/3-2/4 [ET 44]. See also the Arabic version in 
PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 40* (#213). 

169. ? aj li nilJ^Ji JjuL 4>l ^y>\j'\ ("Does God approve of the death of His martyrs, or is He averse to 
it?"), in "On the Incarnation," GRAF, Abu Ra'itah (1951), 62 (#32). 

170. In "On the Incarnation," GRAF, Abu Ra'itah (1951), 62 (#33). 

171. J* e—JL; L;i j^Jl; SAMIR, "Salb" (1984), 418 (#4). 

172. In the Kitab al-masa'il wa-l-agwibah, IV.40, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 242*-43*. 

173. 4JL-. i,LL-.l_, <&l *Uii J-u J, ibid., 242*713. 

174. fc^lLJl « y. <u, Jj-ls-j U^j 4^.1 ^iJl 4j J- JU«J1 ^y~~t ^* • • ibid - 243*715-16. 


their evil intentions. 

While 'Ammar is content with a simple statement of the intention/outcome 
distinction and its application to the case of the Jews' crucifixion of Christ, other 
apologists, notably Timothy and Abu Qurrah, offer vivid illustrations of this 
distinction as part of their response to the Muslim dilemma-question. A first example 
is common to Timothy and Abu Qurrah: that of the Muslim killed while fighting fl 
sabll Allah ("in the way of God"). Timothy phrases it as follows:' 175 ) 

What does our victorious and mighty king say concerning those who go out as 
muttawwi'in bi-sabil Allah ("volunteers in the way of God"):' 176 ) are they willing to 
die, or not? If they are not willing to die, then their death merits no reward and they 
are shut out from Paradise. But if they are willing to die, are those who kill them 
blameworthy or not? If they are not blameworthy, how is it that unbelievers who kill 
Muslims and believers not be blameworthy? But if they are blameworthy, how is it 
that they be deserving of blame when they [merely] accomplished and fulfilled their 

Just as there is no deliverance from the Fire and Hell for those who kill 
believers — though they be willing to die bi-sabil Allah\ — since they did not kill 
them in order that they enter Paradise, but rather out of bitterness, in order to destroy 
them; so also there is no deliverance from the eternal Fire for the Jews — though 
Jesus Christ was willing to be crucified and to die for the sake of all! — since they 
did not crucify him because he willed to be crucified, but rather it was because they 
willed it that they crucified him. It was not in order that he live again and rise from 
the dead that they crucified him, but rather in order that he be utterly destroyed. 

Theodore Abu Qurrah (and, following him, the author of al-Gami'w 1 ) and a 
redactor of the "Abu Qurrah debate"' 178 ') offers the same example, but 
"personalized":' 179 ) he asks his Muslim interlocutor to imagine that it is his own 
beloved brother who is killed by a Byzantine warrior while raiding in Byzantine 
territory, and allows the Muslim to conclude for himself that the Byzantine warrior 
deserves death because of his evil intention, even if he had in fact dispatched the 
brother to Paradise. Abu Qurrah (and his followers) pairs this example with a second. 
He asks his interlocutor to imagine that he has an abcess in his eye causing him 
unbearable pain. An enemy directs at the eye what he intends to be a mortal blow, 
but instead, the blow opens the abcess and heals the eye! Once again the Muslim is 
asked about an appropriate requital, and once again the response is that the enemy 
deserves death because the intention behind his act was evil, even if its outcome was 
good. So it is, concludes Abu Qurrah, with the Jews who crucified Christ. 

Returning to Timothy's discussion with the caliph al-Mahdi, we find two 
further illustrations of the intention/outcome distinction. One is the story, common to 

175. My translation of the Syriac text in MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 117/2/15-118/1/14. This is quite 
closely followed by the Arabic version in CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 144 (#36). 

176. The Syriac simply transliterates the Arabic expression, with a Syriac b- instead of the Arabic fl. 

177. See note 163 above. 

178. See below, pp. 206-8. 

179. In "On Christ's Freely Chosen Death," GRIFFITH, "Sayings" (1979), or SAMIR, "Salb" (1984), 417-19. 


the Bible and the Qur'an, of Joseph and his brothers.' 180 ) The brothers were surely 
culpable for their envy-motivated act of selling Joseph into slavery in Egypt, even 
though the eventual outcome of their act ~ his appointment as administrator of 
Egypt's harvests and grain stores -- was for the good of many.' 181 ) And finally/ 182 ) 
Timothy has al-Mahdl imagine that he planned to demolish a certain palace in order 
to build a better one, but did not carry out his plan before an enemy razed and 
burned it. Timothy leaves it to al-Mahdl to pronounce sentence: "The one who did 
this would deserve a cruel death."' 183 ) So it is, Timothy concludes, drawing on a 
favorite Antiochene christological analogy, with the Jews who wanted to destroy the 
temple of the Word of God. 

(iii) The popularity of the responses 

Christian apologists found the counter-questions of both types studied above to 
be effective, and Timothy's and Abu Qurrah's formulations came to have a lively 
literary history. For example, in the beta-recension of the Ibrahim al-Tabarani debate 
we find a passage which derives from Timothy's discussion of the death of Christ, 
including parts of his response to the question about the guilt of the Jews: the 
counter-questions concerning Satan's fall, and Adam's expulsion from Paradise.' 184 ) 

The literary history of Abu Qurrah's little statement "On Christ's Freely Chosen 
Death," preserved in Sinai ar. 72 (Mar Chariton, 897 A.D.), is even more extensive and 
complex. It is the precursor of: 

(a) The Greek translation/adaptation preserved as Abu Qurrah's opusculum 9.' 185 ) 
Griffith has compared this with the Arabic statement, showing that the Arabic is 
(or is closer to) the original, the Greek, opusculum revealing modifications made 
in order to elucidate certain points (such as the Islamic understanding of death in 
gihad) for a Greek audience and to assimilate the Arabic conversational form to 
the Greek eocbtriau; Kcii djioKounc, polemical form.' 186 ) Also in Greek, the 

180. Syriac text in MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 119/2/2-19. Arabic version in CASPAR, "Versions" 
(1977), 145 (#37). 

181. Cf. Genesis 50:20. 

182. Syriac text in MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 119/2/19-120/1/19. Arabic version in CASPAR, 
"Versions" (1977), 146 (#38). 

183. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 120/1/6-7. 

184. The passage in question follows verset #258 of the edition of MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 383, 
and may be read in (for example) Paris ar. 215, ff. 60 v -62 v ; Vatican ar. 136, ff. 107 r -110 v ; Vatican 
syr. 608, ff. 81 v -83 v ; VOLLERS, "Religionsgesprach" (1908), 57-60. It may be compared with 
Timothy's dialogue in MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 115/2/1-117/2/15 [ET 42-44] (or the Arabic 
versions: CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 142-44 (#33-35) and PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 38*-40* 
(#203-16)). The agreement of the addition with Timothy's text, especially in the original Syriac, is 
frequently word for word. 

185. PG 97, 1529-1530. 


example of the abcess in the eye was taken up in "The Letter of Arethas to the 
Emir at Damascus," which may well date from 920 or 921.< 187 ) 

(3) Mas'alah 5 of Chapter 18 of al-Gami' wuguh al-imanpw which presents the 
Muslim dilemma-question and the counter-examples of the brother killed while 
fighting /[ sabll Allah and of the abcess in the eye. Samir has made a detailed 
comparison of mas'alah 5 with Abu Qurrah's Arabic statement/ 189 ) and, while 
admitting their source in a common polemical and theological environment, 
emphasizes the texts' mutual independence and rules out any copying of one from 
the other.' 190 ) While it is indeed true that no mechanical copying is involved in 
the relationship between the two texts, I believe that their comparison does show 
that the author of al-Gami' was familiar with the "Abu Qurran" response to the 
Muslim dilemma-question, whether in the form preserved in Sinai ar. 72 or in a 
slightly elaborated form. He does not simply copy another's text, however, but 
reproduces its content in his own more powerful style.' 191 ) 

(y) Passages in the recension of the "Abu Qurrah debate" represented by Paris ar. 70< 192 ) 
and 258.0") The material of Abu Qurrah's "On Christ's Freely Chosen Death" is 
nearly all here: the Muslim dilemma-question, the counter-question about the 
Christians' blasphemy, the example of the brother who was killed (here, though, 
in a very corrupt form)/ 19 *) and, after a digression, the example of the abcess in 
the eye (told in a way that shares a number of features with the corresponding 
text in al-Gami').^ 

186. GRIFFITH, Theology (1978), 50-59. 

187. KARLIN-HAYTER, "Letter" (1959-60), 299/13-23 [FT ABEL, "Lettre" (1954), 3661 

188. BL or. 4950, f. 119 rv , SAMIR, "Salb" (1984), 414-17. 

189. Ibid., 420-21. 

190. Ibid., 421. 

191. This is Samir's judgment, ibid. 

192. ff. 192 r — 193 v , 212 r -214 r . The displacement of pages in this manuscript has caused some scholars 
confusion (which can be avoided by following the Coptic page numeration). 

193. ff. 246 r -247 r . Unfortunately, the ink of this manuscript has run very badly in places, making 
reading extremely difficult. 

194. In Paris ar. 70, f. 193 r , the counter-question contains no reference to raiding in Byzantine 
territory, but appears rather to refer to vengeance taken in a blood feud. This may represent an 
attempt to make sense of a passage from which some lines had been lost. The passage in Paris ar. 
258, f. 246 v is also defective (in addition to being practically illegible), but clearly refers to al-'ilg 
("the infidel") or al-Ruml ("the Byzantine") who intended, at least, to kill the brother of one of the 

195. In these texts one is to imagine that it is the ruler (al-malik or al-sultan) who authorizes the 
narrator to beat the interlocutor (with the abcessed eye) wherever he likes. The narrator strikes 
at the eye, intending to do the greatest possible harm; but the abcess bursts and drains, and the 
pain is relieved. 















3 V 



im 'a e 

■9 1 'r 


















































(5) Passages in the yet more elaborately developed recension of the "Abu Qurrah 
debate" represented by Paris ar. 198< 196 > and 215J 197 > Again, all the material of Abu 
Qurrah's Arabic qawl is here, though the trajectory that leads from it, through 
al-Gdmi' and the earlier recensions of the "Abu Qurrah" debate, here comes to a 
much expanded and embroidered presentation designed to make the most of the 
material and to give the reader the "feel" of a debate - and a smashing Christian 
victory - at the court of al-Ma'mun. 

Just as the dilemma-question concerning the freedom of Christ's death and the 
guilt of the Jews became an independent polemical fragment that Muslim 
controversialists could use as they pleased, so too the Christian counter-examples had a 
life of their own. They could circulate independently (as in the case of Abu Qurrah's 
Arabic qawl and its Greek translation/adaptation), be taken up into rather random 
collections of apologetic questions and answers (as in Chapter 18 of al-Gdmi'), or be 
inserted into popular debate texts (such as those of Ibrahim al-Tabaranl and of 
Theodore Abu Qurrah). It is perhaps worth recalling that the Islamic texts that we 
reviewed do not record or respond to any of the Christian counter-questions or 
-examples. If the dilemma-question was popular in Muslim circles, and the 
counter-questions in Christian ones, there is little evidence in our sources for the 
existence of a third level of discussion/^) It was enough for both Muslim and 
Christian controversialists to present arguments that appeared plausible, first and 
foremost in the eyes of members of their own communities. 

(b) De-horning the dilemma grammatically 

A unique and important response to the Muslims' dilemma-question is that of 
HabTb b. Hidmah Abu Ra'itah in his "On the Incarnation."* 1 ") Abu Ra'itah draws 
upon the categories of that most fundamental of Islamic sciences, Arabic grammar. 
He points out that the Arabic masdar or verbal noun is ambiguous, having both an 
active and a passive sense. So it is with verbal nouns such as qatl, "killing," or salb, 
"crucifixion": one can speak of the Jews' crucifixion (of Christ) or of Christ's 

196. ff. 72 v -77 r . 

197. ff. 255 r -257 v . 

198. In his "On the Incarnation," Abu Ra'itah mentions a possible objection to his use of the 
counter-question concerning blasphemy (al-iftira) against God: the counter-question is not 
analogous to the original dilemma-question, because blasphemy does not reach God, while the 
Christians ascribe death to Him! Abu Ra'itah responds that (i) the fact that blasphemy does not 
harm God does not excuse the blasphemer, (ii) and in any case, even crucifixion and death do not 
reach the incarnate God in his divine essence, and therefore the questions are indeed analogous. 
See GRAF, Abu Ra'itah (1951), 62-63 (#33). Apart from this, I know of no probing of the 
Christian counter-questions and -examples in the literature under examination here. 

199. Ibid., 60-61 (#32). 


crucifixion (by the Jews). These two ways of speaking refer to distinct aspects of 
al-salb: respectively, what the Jews did to Christ, and Christ's salvific endurance of 
what they did to him. Furthermore, different moral evaluations may be made of 
these different aspects. The verbal noun (qatl, salb) in itself is morally neutral. But it 
takes on a moral value when annexed in a genitive construction to a subject or an 

Now Abu Ra'itah is in a position to argue that the Muslim dilemma-question -- 
"Did His salb and qatl take place with His approval, or with aversion?"' 200 ) - is 
insufficiently precise. It ought, in fact, to be resolved into two questions, 
corresponding to the two aspects of the verbal nouns: (i) "Does He approve of what 
the Jews did to him out of their envy and malicious intentions?"' 201 ) to which the 
answer can only be ma'ada -llah (God forbid!);' 202 * and (ii) "Does He approve of what 
he freely endured at their hands?"' 203 ' to which the answer is bald (yes indeed!).' 204 ) 

At this point in the argument Abu Ra'itah anticipates the objection that this 
two-fold answer is contradictory, because "what they did to Him" (fi'luhum ladayhi) 
and "what He endured from them" (ma -htamalahu minhum) are one/ 205 ) For Abu 
Ra'itah, to refuse the distinction between the action of the qdtil ("killer") and the 
endurance of the maqtul ("one killed") is to collapse the distinction between subject 
and object, between the active and the passive voices: "the killer becomes the killed, 
and the killed the killer."' 206 ' Just how ridiculous this is can be seen by applying such 
illogic to the case of the (Muslim) martyr (sahid) and his (infidel) killer. If the action 
of the qdtil and the endurance of the maqtul are one, then "the martyr is a killer and 
the killer a martyr, and each is blameworthy and praiseworthy, . . . blameworthy 
because of the killing and praiseworthy because of the martyrdom."' 207 ) 

Exploiting the resources of Arabic grammatical analysis, Abu Ra'itah has found 
a specifically Arabic way of affirming the possibility of a double judgement with 
respect to the crucifixion of Christ: approval and willingness with respect to the 
salvific endurance of crucifixion, and wrath and aversion with respect to the action of 
the crucifiers. With this, one horn of the dilemma is sawed off: Christ was willing 
to undergo crucifixion, but this does not remove the negative judgement on the 
action of his crucifiers. The remaining horn -- that the occurrence of the crucifixion 
despite this negative judgment implies weakness, a victory of creatures over the 
Creator - may be dealt with by means of any of the counter-questions of the first 

200. ?4_l- a j£->_ 4,.!^ jlT ^gj) y\ ibid., 61/7. 

201. ?^LJ vl-~>-_j >J ->>fJl J-* ^yj' j*. ..; ibid., 61/8-9. 

202. Ibid., 61/9. 

203. ? o j^- ^ | : « J^i»-I Lw y>> ^1 j . . . ; ibid., 61/11. 

204. Ibid. 

205. Ibid., 61/14-15; note Graf's emendation of the text. 

206. J_^iJl_, HyJw J:UJl . .; ibid., 61/17-18. 

207. ^Le. JiJJl J-p tJ jJ L LJ lj J^LLl! t^o^j J-Tj 1 4 . < . i J^LaJl ^ JJU J .$, f .,lL» 
,^l f ,:„-,.^l; ibid, 62/1-2. 


type studied above. Thus Abu Ra'itah concludes his argument with the questions: Is 
it with approval or aversion that God regards the martyrdom of the martyrs 
(suhada'X or the blasphemy (iftira') of the blasphemer?* 208 ' Acts of rebellion such as 
blasphemy do not prove God weak or do Him any harm, but their perpetrators are 
culpable all the same.* 209 ' 

(c) What of the agony in Gethsemane, or the cry of dereliction? 

Those Muslims who wrote refutations of the Christians seldom fail to mention 
Christ's agony in the garden of Gethsemane, or the cry of dereliction from the cross 
("My God, my God, why have you forsaken me") as evidence that Christ was not 
God, and that Christians themselves portray him as weak, compelled to a fate that he 
did not will. In the lists of Christ's human activities with which Muslim 
controversialists countered the Christian affirmation of Christ's divinity/ 210 ' hdfa ("he 
feared") and istagdta ("he called for help") are regular members. 

A number of responses were available to Christian apologists. One response, 
of course, was that fear of pain and death is simply part of the human condition that 
Christ freely accepted, "and proved thereby that his Incarnation was a true 
incarnation."* 211 ) With respect to the cry of dereliction from the cross, the author of 
al-Gami 1 has yet another explanation. Christ did not speak for himself, but for 
humanity, estranged from God. He was like a king's son who dressed himself in rags 
and interceded for the king's rebellious people, saying, "Lord, how long will you avert 
your face from me?"* 212 ) 

A more surprising response is found in the writings of the Jacobites Abu 
Ra'itah and Eustathius, who deal with the question within the dialectic set up by the 
double affirmation of Christ's freedom and the Jews' guilt.* 213 ' Far from casting doubt 
on Christ's free acceptance of suffering and death for humanity's salvation, his fear 
and calling for help serve (in Abu Ra'itah's words) "to establish his complaint against 
Satan and the Jews, lest they excuse themselves from the blame of what they 
committed in killing him, saying, 'We are blameless in what we did, because we only 

208. Ibid., 62 (end of #32). 

209. Ibid. 62-62 (#33). 

210. See below, pp. 238-46. 

211. (ja- a_^J oJ— *J j' iJJJL Jj^Jj; from Abu Ra'itah's "On the Incarnation," GRAF, Abu Ra'ita (1951), 
59/1-7 (citation from line 5). Cf. the passages from al-Gami' wuguh al-iman cited or referred to 
above, pp. 186-87. 

212. it ^ ti^J-i <Jj~aZ ju> <Ji '<S*4- in Chapter 17, Question 11, BL or. 4950, ff. 102 v -103 v 
(citation from f. 103 r /4-5). 

213. Abu Ra'itah, "On the Incarnation," GRAF, Abu Ra'itah (1951), 59-60 (#31). Eustathius, Mingana chr. 
ar. 52, f. 51 r . 


did it with his appro valH 214 > Christ's public cry of dereliction makes any such excuse 
empty, since a crowd of witnesses became aware of Christ's aversion to the fate 
brought upon him. 

Abu Ra'itah immediately goes on to show from the New Testament that Christ 
was indeed willing to undergo crucifixion and death. At this point in the argument 
his language is rather paradoxical, but he soon resolves the paradox with his 
grammatical analysis of qatl and salb. The double judgment authorized by that 
analysis means that one can simultaneously say that Christ was averse to the Jews' 
action in crucifying him (which establishes their guilt) and that Christ foresaw and 
willingly underwent crucifixion (in accordance with his freedom). There is, therefore, 
no contradiction between Christ's freedom and his fear, between his control of events 
and his cry for help. 

IV. Redemption from the Curse of the Law 

A. "On the Necessity of Redemption": The Argument 

Unique in the literature examined in the present study is a little treatise by 
Theodore Abu Qurrah which I call "On the Necessity of Redemption."* 215 ) It is the 
first in a set of three linked apologetic pieces specifically designed to explain 
to Muslims the Christian doctrines of redemption, Incarnation, and the divinity of the 
Son of God.' 216 ' The argument that Abu Qurrah makes is summed up by the full title 
of the work, as given in the edition of Constantine Bacha: "A treatise concerning the 
fact that no one is forgiven his sin except through the pains of Christ, which came 
upon him for the sake of the people; and that whoever does not believe in these pains 
and offer them to the Father for his trespasses will never have forgiveness of his 
trespasses."* 2 17 > 

214. 4Ju I jijjLi }UJ ) t*hi ^ i '.ill jj> » U_i ^ ej'\ I ^hAj t a j+J\ j jUa-iJl ^ylp <jl>vj>- . . . 

t!<i, iiJj LUi UJi \h i Ljlw' U-i U <__;i> V; GRAF, Abu Ra'itah (1951), 59/7-10. Eustathius 
simply says: iJJi 4^i* iiUi-Vl j £_>>«-ll j^>' ^, < ■ I p i>i>Jl tjL^'V . . . ("in order to make the 
argument against them compelling, he manifested fear, cries for help, and similar things"), Mingana 
chr. ar. 52, f. 50 v . 

215. Ed. BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 83-91 [GT GRAF, Abu Qurra (1910), 169-77]. Earlier discussions of 
this treatise include RIVIERE, "Precurseur" (1914); GRIFFITH, Theology (1978), 193-98; and 
SWANSON, "Cross" (1994), 121-23. 

216. The other treatises are "On the Possibility of the Incarnation" (BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 180-86) 
and "On the Divinity of the Son" (ibid., 91-104). For the full titles of these works and 
bibliographical information, see above, p. 11. 

217. J*yt "V Jj> o'j i^r-l-Jl ^ o cJL»- i ^J\ tg*. — Jl ^Jl^/l, "Vi 4-,* : U-i- ^JLij V 4J* ^ j...^ 
T J_>* 4jjjJU I jkiu> *->.yi <>*■ «—>5U l+jyijj ^Ls-jMl; ibid., 83/1-3. 


Clearly, Abu Qurrah is taking a different apologetic tack than those Christian 
theologians studied earlier in this chapter. While he can talk easily of Satan and his 
defeat, especially when addressing Christians/ 218 ' in "On the Necessity of Redemption" 
we encounter the same sort of "demythologization" that we noted earlier with regard 
to the apologetic soteriology of Abu Ra'itah/ 219 ' To describe humankind's fallen state, 
Abu Qurrah does not tell the story of their fall under Satan's authority, but rather 
says that "Adam and his children had rushed headlong into a collision with sin, and 
destruction had gained mastery over them,"( 220 ' His apology is therefore 
fundamentally not a redescription of the story of Jesus as his deceptive defeat of the 
Devil, even if he alludes to that story in passing/ 221 ' Nor is the apology a 
redescription of the story of Jesus as a divine demonstration of the reality of the 
resurrection of the dead. In fact, "On the Necessity of Redemption" simply 
presupposes the reality of the life of the world to come - in blessedness or in torment 
-- as a shared biblical and Qur'anic truth. As for the resurrection of Christ, it hardly 
plays any role in the apology at all. 

The common ground upon which Abu Qurrah constructs the argument of "On 
the Necessity of Redemption," in addition to the expectation of the future life, is the 
fact that God has revealed His Law, demands perfect obedience, and punishes 
disobedience. Thus the treatise begins/ 222 ' 

218. See above, pp. 159 (note 27), 162-63, and below, pp. 224-25, 228. 

219. See above, pp. 174-75. 

220. iJtA+ll s^wL-lj ilf-J lj.Ja.-Jlj iiJaiJl ^ \ )J ^Z oi . . .; BACHA, Maydmir (1904), 
87/12-13. Cf. ibid. 84/6-7: dy^l « LJ cjji ^sJl -LlJ^JI SjU ^ iLU r SL^-l jJ 
L^jjJ ("the habit of sin to which you have voluntarily become subdued has taken root in you, 
inasmuch as its delight pleased you"). 

221. E.g., see above, p. 159 (note 27). 

222. BACHA, Maydmir (1904), 83/4-6. 



God sent down (anzala) the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, 
and in it enjoined precepts upon the people 

and set punishments for the one who neglects them. 
Among God's precepts there was that they should love him 
with all their hearts 

and with all their strength 
and with all their souls 
and with all their intentions [Deuteronomy 6:51 

God's demand, continues Abu Qurrah, is implacable. There is no redress for the 
person who falls short of the perfection of the obedience of which he is capable. And 
for the person who fails to obey, there is no escape from the punishment stipulated in 
the Law. 

But now there is an objection. Does not repentance (tawbah) avert the 
punishment stipulated in the Law? Abu Qurrah responds that repentance does not 
blunt the Law's demand for obedience. Even if a person did achieve perfect 
obedience after repentance, his former sins would still demand punishment, as he 
explains using language resonant with Qur'anic overtones:* 223 ) 

jt ill Jlj^ N 4JL» 

— ! a ji jl Jii* jjj — 


There is no way for you to blot out any 
— not even an atom's measure! — 
of your former sin. 
Thus it is inevitable that the punishment that falls to you 
because of "what your hands have forwarded" 
will be fixed upon you. 
You will not be able to remove it at all! 

Abu Qurrah's "not even an atom's measure!" (wa-law miqddr darrah) echoes the 
Qur'an's mitqal darrah in verses such as al-Zilzal (99):8, t jJS. 3ji JULl* J-^««-j j>j 
ojji ("and whoso has done an atom's weight of evil shall see it," i.e. on the Day of 

223. Ibid., 84/8-10. 


Judgement). And his expression "what your hands have forwarded" (bi-ma qaddamat 
yadaka) is common to judgement formulae such as Al 'Imran (3):181-82, where God 
says to the malefactors: . . . *-x-»JU! c~*Jii U_> dJi .j^^JI ^>IJip lyji ("Taste the 
chastisement of the burning - that, for what your hands have forwarded . . .")• Abu 
Qurrah's language here carries a clear reminder of the Qur'an's terrible threats of 
everlasting punishment. 

A further objection comes from one who says, "God charges (yukallif) no one 
of the people to exert his uttermost endeavor in His obedience," which appears to be 
Abu Qurrah's parody of the Qur'anic assertion (e.g. in al-Baqarah (2):286) -ill <jJ^j ^ 

*l t~~ '<u ("God charges no soul save to its capacity"). Abu Qurrah dismisses this 
rather contemptuously by suggesting that its corollary is that God wills that people 
exert some of their strength in obeying Satan -- to which one can only say hasa 
li-lldhi, God forbid! 

But why should not God simply forgive sins freely, in His mercy putting aside 
those punishments that follow on the Law? Abu Qurrah responds that to bestow such 
forgiveness without some sabab 'adl, some "means for maintaining justice" that would 
preserve the integrity of the Law, would simply be to make God's Law a vanity 
(batil) and God Himself something frivolous ('abat)\ Once again the vocabulary is 
familiar to those who know the Qur'an, which strongly denies that God has created 
anything batilan (Al 'Imran (3):191, Sad (38):27) or 'abatan (al-Mu'miniin (23):115).) 
God does not act vainly or frivolously! But if He were to forgive sins without a 
sabab 'adl, then His mercy would embrace believer and unbeliever alike. There 
would be no point in suffering obedience; moral chaos would reign. Again, one can 
only say hasa li-lldhi, God forbid! 

What sabab 'adl might there then be which would preserve the integrity of 
God's Law, and yet allow human beings to attain God's favor and remission from the 
consequences of their trespasses? The answer, according to Abu Qurrah, is the 
Incarnation and passion of the eternal Son of God:< 224 > 

i^l ^\ Si dyu 1 

tjjjfcjjl JlJ ill JA JjJj^JI 

• i * 

hJjipj 4il y>> yr (^JUI 
i^-uJJI i j\\t« I I *IjJl«JI pj-j J> Jj-j 

224. Ibid., 85/18-86/9. 


L^>- I lL» -L*-l j Ji' jlT ^yJI 4j_jJL«JI 4_> Jj^j jl \J> jjCLa 

t 4 aj 4i_Jjaj>tj 

4<J| J-a) ji J--— ^Urji/I aJLjJ jlS' lJ 

>is'*i \> £>-J (Jl *J| J-^! 

i. JLmJnJ C .>■•>• J^-I j 5 

<.4_Jl laiZ jl ^Y^l oJLa Jl J... 11 ^ ^s-il 

.«JU»>- L^J ju 

t JsL^JLp ~lL>»j ji o j-fJ* ,j^«i j 6 

■* . * 

(1) .ij^>Jlj jl 4-«JU«j 

aJ_~>- J iiLJL>«Jlj p Wl aJL* 7 
-- ilfJ'yi * s*eJg Jl *^ L^jl* j-iij - 

(1) Ed. L mJ >J\ J. 

1 We say that the eternal Son, 

begotten of God before all ages, 

who is of the essence of God and His equal, 

2 came down from heaven in his mercy to Adam's descendants, 

and dwelt in the womb of a purified virgin by the Holy Spirit, 

and took from her a body which he fashioned for himself with mind and soul; 

3 and became incarnate from the Holy Spirit and from Mary the purified one, 

and went out into the world exposed to the punishment coming upon him, 
[the punishment] which every one of us deserved on account of his own sin: 
beating, ignominy, crucifixion, and death. 

4 If he had not become incarnate these pains would have had no way to attain him, 

because in his divine nature he is invisible and intangible, 
and no suffering or pain or harm attains him. 

5 But inasmuch as he became incarnate, 

a way was made for these sufferings to reach him 
in that he exposed his body to them. 


6 He made it possible that his back be flogged with a whip, 

that he be smitten upon the head, 
that his face be spat upon, 
that his hands and feet be nailed, 

and that his ribcage be pierced by a spear. 

7 He truly bore these sufferings in his body 

(although none of them reached his divine nature) 
and accomplished our salvation. 

At this point in his presentation, but only at this point/ 225 ) Abu Qurrah cites 
several of the usual Old Testament prophecies of the crucifixion - Isaiah 50:5-6 and 
53:2-7, Psalm 22:16-18 and Zechariah 12:10 -- concluding that all the prophets bore 
witness to Christ's pains, alone through which human beings are delivered from the 
torment they have deserved because of their sins. But there remains the question: 
how do Christ's pains accomplish this? In a dramatic little passage, Abu Qurrah 
"eavesdrops" as God the Father explains the matter to His eternal Son:< 226 ) 

- ^a>^ ^ \j\y A^lj Lfj^-y-^JI - 

(1) Ed. ykUaJl. 


1 Because you, pure Son, 

are my equal and of my essence. 

2 Of a certainty, all the creatures [together] do not equal you 

or are comparable to you in any way at all, 

on account of the majesty of your divinity which nothing approaches. 


See p. 126 above. 

BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 88/2-7. For parallels in Abu Qurrah's "On the Death of Christ," see 
below, pp. 225-27. 


3 Therefore if the punishment 

— which every one of them deserves innumerable times — 
falls upon you one time on their behalf, 

4 you will have discharged for them 

the entire claim of the Law, 

and will have added that which has no end. 

And therefore forgiveness of sins and deliverance from punishment is possible 
- to those who offer Christ's pains to the Father - / 227 ) 

i^jU-jJI jL*A tt)>l J>*^> 1>- j-t jj^I IJL* *l>-_tl al 

LjjJI (Jjli jlj JuJii\ ^IJbJI ^jA L^LmJ 

* •• • •- • t "l - II 

t . . . ^LL__>_j Oyy^i «-fi 4 

(l) Ed. L;U__i. 


1 So now we, the community of Christians, 

when we offered the pains of this Son for our sins, 

2 our sins were most certainly forgiven, 

and we escaped from the torment prepared for the one 
who (since the coming of Christ^ 228 ' has departed the world 
before his trespasses were forgiven through his blood. 

3 As for the non-Christians, 

including whoever does not offer the pains of Christ for his sin, 

4 they die in their sins .... 

and whoever dies in his sin is inevitably subject to its torment forever. 


BACHA, Maydmir (1904), 90/3-8. 

Abu Qurrah briefly mentions Christ's descent into Hell in order to rescue the righteous people 
who died before his coming at ibid., 89/18-90/2. For more detail see below, p. 228. 


B. "On the Necessity of Redemption" in the History of Doctrine* 229 * 

L Abu Qurrah: a precursor of Anselm? 

For Western Christian readers, the argument advanced by Theodore Abu 
Qurrah in "On the Necessity of Redemption" has a familiar ring. This is by no means 
a new observation. A very few years after Georg Graf had made the treatise known 
to Western scholars through his German translation,* 230 ) Jean Riviere, the great French 
Roman Catholic scholar of the doctrine of redemption, published an article entitled 
"Un precurseur de Saint Anselme: La theologie redemptrice de Theodore Abu 
Qurra."* 231 ) Riviere presented an impressive array of parallels between the way in 
which Abu Qurrah sets out the problem to be solved in "On the Necessity of 
Redemption" and the way in which it is set out in that defining work, of the last nine 
centuries of Western soteriology, the Cur Deus homo of St. Anselm of Canterbury 
(completed in 1098).* 232 ) Abu Qurrah had begun his treatise with the assertion that 
God demands perfect obedience to His Law, and punishes disobedience. Three 
centuries later, Anselm wrote:* 233 ) 

The will of every rational creature must be subject to the will of God. . . . For only 
such a will produces works pleasing to God .... A person who does not render God 
this honor due Him, takes from God what is His . . . and this is to commit sin. ... It 
is, however, not seemly for God to let pass something inordinate in His kingdom. . . . 
Hence it is not fitting for God to remit sin without punishing it. 

Abu Qurrah had argued that even if it were possible that repentance bring about 
obedience, former sins would still demand punishment. Similarly, Anselm has his 
friend Boso say:* 234 ) 

If, even when I am not in the state of sin, I owe Him myself and whatever I can do, 
in order to avoid sinning, I have nothing to offer Him in compensation for [former] sin. 

And what of the possibility of free pardon? Anselm's answer repeats several points 

229. In this section I am indebted to Dr. George Bebawi for his critique of my overly "Western" 
assessment of "On the Necessity of Redemption" in a paper read to the Woodbrooke Symposium 
(Birmingham, May 1990) and, after revision, published: SWANSON, "Cross" (1994). 

230. GRAF, Abu Qurra (1910), 169-77. 

231. RIVIERE, "Precurseur" (1914). 

232. These parallels are set out in ibid., 339-44. 

233. For these quotations from Anselm I am following Riviere (ibid.), but have checked the edition of 
Rene Roques. I reproduce the English translation of Joseph Colleran. For the following text, see 
Cur Deus homo I, 11-12 (ROQUES, Dieu (1963), 262-65, 268-69 [ET COLLERAN, Anselm (1969), 

234. Cur Deus homo I, 20 (ROQUES, Dieu (1963), 320-21 [ET COLLERAN, Anselm (1969), 107D. 


that Abu Qurrah had made, and which had led him to exclaim hasa li-llahi, God 
forbid!* 23 *) 

[I]f it is not fitting for God to do anything unjustly or inordinately, it does not pertain 
to His freedom or kindness or will to pardon without punishment a sinner who does 
not make recompense to God for what he took away. 

[I]f an unpunished sin is remitted, one who sins and one who does not sin will be in 
the same position before God. 

But if you wish to say: "The merciful God remits the debt of one who supplicates 
Him, for the very reason that he cannot repay it," . . . what else would that mean but 
that God is remitting what He cannot obtain? But to attribute such "mercy" to God 
would be to deride Him. 

Riviere concluded that "the humble bishop of Harran" can be considered a 
precursor of "the great doctor of Canterbury" insofar as he posed himself the same 
question -- sin and the possibility of its forgiveness - and adopted some of the same 
premises in answering it.* 236 ) Beyond this, however, Riviere saw Abu Qurrah as 
making the wrong turn at a fork in the road of soteriological truth that leads to 
Anselm (and beyond to the great scholastics). Anselm himself described this fork in 
the road: "it is necessary that satisfaction or punishment follow every sin."* 237 ) Abu 
Qurrah took the "road" of punishment: Christ submitted himself to the punishment 
that was rightly ours. For Anselm on the other hand, Christ offered satisfaction, 
which is to be understood as "an homage substituted for for the punishment and 
dispensing with it."* 238 ) Therefore, according to Riviere, Abu Qurrah's doctrine may 
finally be seen to be "miles away" (aux antipodes) from that of Anselm/ 239 ) It is, 
however, a "remarkable anticipation" of Protestant theories of penal substitution such 
as those of the Reformed legal theorist Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)!* 240 ) 

2. Another comparison 

Anselm's Cur Deus homo is not the only Christian soteriological "classic" in 
which parallels to Abu Qurrah's "On the Necessity of Redemption" may be sought. 
Asking, for the moment, "Of whom is Abu Qurrah the development?" rather than "Of 
whom is he the precursor?" there is considerable enlightenment to be had by 

235. Cur Deus homo I, 12, 24 (ROQUES, Dieu (1963), 272-73, 268-69, 336-39 [ET COLLERAN, 
Anselm (1969), 87, 86, 114D. 

236. RIVIERE, "Precurseur" (1914), 350. 

237. Cur Deus homo I, 15 (ROQUES, Dieu (1963), 280-81 [ET COLLERAN, Anselm (1969), 91]). The 
emphasis is that of RIVIERE, "Precurseur" (1914), 344. 

238. Ibid., 349. Emphasis mine. 

239. Ibid. 

240. Ibid., 350. On the soteriology of Grotius, see RIVIERE, "Redemption" (1937), 1954. 


examining De Incarnatione of St. Athanasius of Alexandria (ca. 295-373)/ 241 ) 
Athanasius describes the plight from which humankind needed to be redeemed as 
follows: created originally from nothing, human beings are by nature corruptible. 
However, in their original blessed state they were exempted from this natural 
corruptibility through their contemplation of and participation in the Creator Word of 
God. With the fall, however, our first parents turned away from the source of their 
existence and incorruptibility, and thus they and their descendants began to slip - and 
indeed, by becoming insatiable in sinning, to plunge - back into non-existence and 
corruption/ 242 ^ 

For Athanasius, therefore, the great problem which humanity faces is not (as in 
Abu Qurrah) the punishment due because of offences against the (Mosaic) Law, but 
death, which ever since it was activated by our first parents' transgression of God's 
commandment has been like an "engine of destruction" bearing down inexorably on 
the entire human race/ 243 ) What can be done about this? Like Abu Qurrah after 
him, Athanasius does not doubt that the integrity of God's commandment and Law 
must be upheld/ 244 ) 

[Bly the law death thenceforth prevailed over us. And it was impossible to flee the 
law, since this had been established by God because of the transgression. And these 
events were truly at once absurd (otTOJtoq) and improper (dnpenriO- For it was absurd 
that, having spoken, God should lie, in that he had established a law that man would 
die by death if he were to transgress the commandment, and man did not die after 
he had transgressed, but God's word was made void O.ueo0ai xov toutou \oyo\). . , , 
And furthermore, it would have been improper that what had once been created 
rational and had partaken of his Word, should perish and return again to non-existence 
through corruption. 

As Abu Qurrah put it later in Qur'anicly colored language, God forbid that God's Law 
should become batil ("void"), or that He Himself should be 'abat, creating and 
speaking frivolously^ 245 ) 

Athanasius asks about the possibility of repentance, and -- like Abu Qurrah 
later - concludes that repentance is insufficient to undo the consequence of sin (which 
for Athanasius is corruption, whereas for Abu Qurrah it is punishment).^ 

The solution, according to Athanasius, is the Incarnation, passion, and 
resurrection of God the Word. The Creator Word rescues his creatures by 

241. Ed. and ET: THOMSON, Athanasius (1971). 

242. De Inc. 3-5 (THOMSON, Athanasius (1971), 138-47). 

243. I am indebted to Prof. David Yeago of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (Columbia, South 
Carolina) this image, and, more fundamentally, for the suggestion that I look carefully at 
Athanasius' De Incarnatione as possible background for understanding Abu Qurrah's doctrine of 

244. De Inc. 6 (THOMSON, Athanasius (1971), 146-49; his ET). 

245. See above, p. 214. 

246. De Inc. 1 (THOMSON, Athanasius (1971), 150-51). 


interposing his own body between them and the "engine of destruction" which is 
death. Since this body is the body of the Word, death and corruption exhaust 
themselves in it; and with Christ's resurrection the way is opened for Adam's 
descendants to return to incorruptibility, immortality, and re-creation in the image of 
the Father.* 247 ) 

This has quite a different sound to what we have heard in Abu Qurrah's "On 
the Necessity of Redemption." If, however, we take Athanasius' dramatic vision of 
redemption and make the "engine of destruction" that bears down upon humanity 
inevitable punishment for transgressions of the Law of God rather than inevitable 
death and corruption for turning away from the Word of God, then in essentials we 
have the story told by Abu Qurrah! For we can summarize the argument of "On the 
Necessity of Redemption" perfectly well by saying that the eternal Son rescues human 
beings by "interposing" himself between them and the punishments which are "bearing 
down" on them, "exhausting" the claims of the Law for punishment because of the 
majesty of his divinity. 

The fundamental congruity between the plots of the narratives of redemption 
told by Athanasius and Abu Qurrah may be made very plain through a comparison of 
summary passages. Athanasius had summarized the Word's redemptive work as the 
offering of his body - to deaths 24 ^ 

Therefore as an offering and sacrifice free of all spot, 

he offered to death the body which he had taken to himself, 
and immediately abolished death from all who were like him 
by the offering of a like. 
For since the Word is above all, 

consequently by offering his temple and the instrument of his body 
as a substitute for all men, 

he fulfilled the debt by his death. 

As for Abu Qurrah, he would later make precisely the same points while speaking of 
the work of the incarnate Son as a purchase - from the curse of the LawS 2 ^ 

After that he purchased us people from the curse of the Law 

by his pains and crucifixion and death. 
What he endured of that became the settlement of what had been incumbent 

upon every one who believed in him. 
In him is sufficiency to settle this for all of us 

because he is an eternal Son, 

better than us all without compare. 


De Inc. 8-10 (THOMSON, Athanasius (1971), 150-59). 

De Inc. 9 (THOMSON, Athanasius (1971), 154-55; his ET). 

In "On the Death of Christ." For the Arabic text, see below, p. 225. 


Simply stated, Abu Qurrah's apologetic soteriology is structurally that of Athanasius, 
but with "death" replaced by "the curse of the Law."( 250 > 

3. Abu Qurrah between Athanasius and Anselm 

In terms of plot, the soteriological redescription of the story of Jesus that we 
find in Theodore Abu Qurrah's "On the Necessity of Redemption" fits perfectly into 
the tradition represented by Athanasius' De Incarnatione. The original features in 
Abu Qurrah's presentation are due largely to the fact that it is an 
apologetic soteriology directed to Muslims. Abu Qurrah appears to have decided that 
neither the biblical story of the Fall, nor an ontology such as that of Athanasius, 
would do for describing plausibly within the Islamic environment the plight of 
humanity from which Christ achieved salvation. However, Muslims could certainly 
agree with Christians on the sending down of the Law to Moses, the divine 
expectation of obedience, the final judgement when "whoso has done an atom's weight 
of evil shall see it,"( 251 > and the reality of "the burning ... for what your hands have 
forwarded."* 252 ) Therefore Abu Qurrah defined the plight from which humankind was 
saved by the Incarnation and passion of Christ not in terms of death, nor (in his 
writing directed to Muslims) in terms of the Devil, but in terms of "the curse of the 
Law and damnation."* 253 ^ 

It is true that Abu Qurrah's "On the Necessity of Redemption" bears some 
remarkable similarities to Anselm's Cur Deus homo. The reason for this should not 
be seen, however, in the groping of "the humble bishop of Harran" towards true 
soteriological doctrine, but rather in terms of an apologetic program common to the 
two theologians. For, as Julia Gauss has brilliantly shown in her historical, 
biographical, and textual studies of Anselm, Cur Deus homo was written on the eve 
of the Crusades to serve the Western Church in its confrontation with Islam (and 

250. Parallels to the passage just cited may be found elsewhere in Abu Qurrah's works. For example, 
in "On the Possibility of the Incarnation" we find (ibid., 182/17-19): jj> ^JJl J — >Jl ^ J*. 

4_L_»J J_. iiJjL; Ul-Li t4_; cJU lil tC-JL^ ^1 ^L>-jVlj (Wl ^1 <— \ k ■> II »lj-L«Jl pO-* 

^^LJl ([The eternal Son] dwelt in the body which he took from Mary the pure virgin, and 
exposed it to the sufferings and pains which were, when they came upon it, our redemption from 
the curse of the Law). Also see note 253 below. 

251. al-Zihal (99):8. See above, pp. 213-14. 

252. Al 'lmran (3):181-82. See above, pp. 213-14. 

253. We recall that the title of the little compilation of "Abu Qurran" material preserved as his 
opusculum 1 (PG 97, 1461-70) is "The Five Enemies from which the Savior Delivered Us," which 
are death, the Devil, the curse of the Law and damnation, sin, and hell. It comes as no surprise 
that the main parallels to Abu Qurrah's Arabic "On the Necessity of Redemption" are found in 
the third part, on "the curse of the Law and damnation" (ibid., 1467-70). 


Judaism)/ 254 ^ The much-discussed "rationalism" of Anselm is, as Gauss points out, 
apologetically-determined "rationalism.''^ 255 ) Anselm argues "as if nothing were 
known about Christ"* 256 ) because he intends to build his apology on presuppositions 
common to Christians, Muslims, and Jews: creation, sin, reward and punishment in 
the life to come/ 257 ) But this, we have seen, is precisely Abu Qurrah's program in "On 
the Necessity of Redemption." And thus there is a very fundamental sense in which 
"the humble bishop of Harran" can indeed be said to be a precursor of "the great 
doctor of Canterbury." 

V. Discussion in Conclusion and Anticipation 

A few final observations will suffice to bring the present chapter to a close 
and to set the stage for the next chapter, while allowing us a glance at a few 
additional passages of interest from the writings of Theodore Abu Qurrah. 

(a) The various stories: complementarity or confusion? 

The Christian apologists we have studied did not consider their different 
narrative redescriptions of the story of Jesus to be mutually exclusive. In keeping 
with those Church Fathers who could pile up redemptive images and metaphors in 
single paragraphs without any sense of unclarity or contradiction/ 258 ) arabophone 
apologists could and did employ a variety of ways of telling the story of Jesus as the 
story of redemption. This is certainly the case, for example, in the work of Theodore 
Abu Qurrah, who could easily speak about Christ's deception and defeat of Satan in 
certain contexts and about Christ's redeeming us from the curse of the Law in others. 
In one remarkable passage in "On the Death of Christ," a polemic directed 

254. GAUSS, "Islamf rage" (1963) and "Begegnung" (1967). I have not seen a copy of her "Die 
Auseinandersetzung mit Judentum und Islam bei Anselm," in Analecta Anselmiana 4/2 (1975). 

255. GAUSS, "Islamfrage" (1963), 269-72. 

256. Cur Deus homo Praef. (ROQUES, Dieu (1963), 198-99 [ET COLLERAN, Anselm (1969), 60]). 

257. It may be worth commenting that the similarities that Riviere claimed to see between Abu 
Qurrah's doctrine and that of Grotius could be examined in the same light. Grotius, after all, 
developed his soteriology in opposition to rationalist Socinians. He too had to argue "as if nothing" 
supernatural "were known about Christ." 

258. E.g. see above, p. 167 (note 50). An excellent study of the predilection of Cyril of Alexandria for 
"clusters" of brief, unexplained soteriological assertions is McINERNEY, "Commonplaces" (1979). 


to Christians, he describes Christ's struggle with and victory over Satan in terms now 
very familiar to us:< 259 > 

t JjuJL £S]\ J\ Crt^ J*1 o> 1 

t *IjJi*JI ^ 2 

.... <d^ as-j~ou jl jJLL ^JLi 

tU^VI ^:,Ja-H 5 
jUJI Jljlj 

cLUp o^" (^Jl 4jJLk^.l ^-<Jj 
clffc' jiiJI^ i&XJI -Up J^JL A II J«rj 

:JjjLj t4i^>-j <u^So"«_j j>*^ju o\£ j\ Aaj 7 
t<3ll 3jj-*» Cj-Ljcl^I 

(1) Ed. JjVl. 

1 Therefore the eternal Son restricted his power, in justice, 

to the measure of human nature, 

and took on its reality from the Holy Spirit and from the Virgin Mary. 

2 He came out from the Virgin 

and walked in the world, exposed to Satan. 

3 And Satan made bold to wrestle with him 

in every way in which he had wrestled with Adam 

(as you have heard that he did with him in the wilderness), 

4 and in addition to that poured out upon him the pains mentioned in the gospels, 

but he was unable to throw him down or cause him to stumble. 

5 He purified human nature, 

and did away with its shame. 

6 He exposed Satan, who used to revile it, 

and curbed the arrogance with which he had lorded over it, 

and made Satan to plunge into ignorance before the angels and all the creation, 

259. BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 67/19-68/9. 


7 and that after he had boasted of his craft and malice, saying: 
"I have enslaved the image of God, 

and for that reason the entire creation has submitted itself to me." 

But almost immediately after this Abu Qurrah switches to the language of "On the 
Necessity of Redemption," and explains:* 260 ) 


1 After that he purchased us human beings 

from the curse of the Law 

by his pains and crucifixion and death. 

2 What he endured of that became the settlement 

of what had been incumbent upon every one who believed in him. 

3 In him is sufficiency to settle this for all of us 

because he is an eternal Son, 

better than us all without compare. 

When we studied redescriptions of the story of Jesus as that of his cunning deception 
and defeat of Satan, we noted that by and large they failed to answer the question of 
how precisely the crucifixion fit into the plot. Abu Qurrah appears to have been 
content to answer the puzzlements of the one story by switching to another story into 
which the crucifixion is more fully integrated: that of Christ's redeeming us from the 
curse of the Law by undergoing the punishments stipulated by the Law in our stead. 
In making this observation, we may note once again just how accurate the Muslim 
al-Qasim b. Ibrahim was in his summary of Christian soteriological doctrine when he 
made a sudden switch from the language of deception to that of purchase/ 261 ) We 
may also sense how inevitable it was both that the Christian story of Christ's cunning 
deception and defeat of Satan should have come in for ferocious critique from 
Muslim polemicists, and that some Christian writers should have sought ways of 
pushing that story far into the background of their specifically MMs//m-directed 

260. Ibid., 68/13-16. We have already encountered this text; see above, p. 221. 

261. See pp. 163-66 (especially at #15) above. 


(b) The inevitable reality of the crucifixion 

Whatever story of redemption a Christian apologist chose to tell, that story 
amounted to an indirect defence of the historicity of the crucifixion of Christ. For 
without that crucifixion, Satan would not have been defeated, or we would be left 
without the certainty of the general resurrection and the life of the world to come, o r 
we would be left in our sins without the possibility of forgiveness, eternal punishment 
our only future expectation. To any of these points the only (Arabic) Christian 
response could be - to use the expression used so freely by Abu Qurrah in "On the 
Necessity of Redemption" - hdsa li-lldhi, God forbid! If Muslims had argued that it 
was not fitting for God to allow His honored apostle to undergo the ignominious 
death of crucifixion/ 262 ) Christians responded, in effect, that it was not fitting for God 
to do otherwise - since there would then be no salvation (however that salvation was 
narrated and understood). 

(c) The identity of the one who was crucified 

Generally speaking, for the apologetic soteriologies we have encountered in 
this chapter the true divinity of the one who was crucified is an essential element of 
the plot. Christ's true (but hidden) divinity is obviously central to the redescription of 
his story as his cunning victory over Satan, who seized on the "bait" of the humanity 
and was caught on the "fishhook" of the divinity/ 263 ' While the "divine 
demonstration" soteriology does not require that Jesus Christ be unequivocally 
identified as "God" - a fact which perhaps accounts for its popularity among 
Nestorian apologists such as the catholicos Timothy and 'Ammar al-BasrF 264 ) - the 
absolute freedom with which Christ underwent his passion and managed its details 
(according to "divine demonstration" redescriptions of his story) derives from and 
points to his true divinity. And to Theodore Abu Qurrah it is abundantly clear that 
there is no salvation unless the one who suffered and died was God. He argues with 
passion against Nestorians that the death of a mere man cannot be salvific/ 265 ' 

tjjip Oj-ju jujN' ^ i 

262. See above, pp. 145-46. 

263. See above, pp. 158-59. 

264. See above, p. 176 and pp. 177-79, 182-85, 188-90 respectively. On Nestorian christological scruples, 
see below, pp. 247-49. 

265. From "On the Death of Christ," BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 51/14-52/2. 


tJjuJI j,* ^^J IJLa jii 3 

^Ul JA J^lj L>-lj j^L; il 

I I -* I -* . ' . . f 

ttij^ liL-JI »JL>w»JI jlS' lil 

LKJ ^ jUjVI IJLa Ifi 5 


1 If God delivered only this man to death in order to establish His justice 

and in order that He not be frivolity, and His Law void 
(in that He would have imposed it upon the people 
and not claimed His rights by it), 

2 and yet did not forgive sin to anyone, 

so that He demanded from each one 
every punishment stipulated by the statutes of the Law; 

3 this would not be just, 

since [in this case] every person would be liable before God 
to be exposed, whipped, crucified, killed, 
and subjected to every type of punishment specified by the Law for sins, 
and that countless times. 

4 Furthermore, everyone who believed in the death of Christ 

would not be delivered from all of this [punishment] 
by Christ's taking it upon himself one time 

if the one who took it upon himself were a mere man, 

5 because that man would not be equal to all of us 

so that his pains would be compensation to the Law 
for the punishments to which all of are liable before God. 

And against Severan Monophysites (whom he suspects of having made Christ into 
something other than either God or man)/ 266 ) Abu Qurrah asks with regard to Christ's 
sufferings: "if these things are not attributed to God (in the manner we have 
mentioned), by what manner of justice or by what argument have we been saved 

266. See p. 255 (note 107) below. 


from the Devil, death, sin, and the Law?"( 26? ) He goes on:< 268 ) 

t^i ji\ IJLa Jjki c^-Jl» 1 

aJl. ^-J iJL>JL»JI f Js- <*JU» ^JUI jt ^j^jl; (l^j^jJ) jli' JLii 2 

.(<u ^UaL J^ 1 ^1-?) 
t^JL c$_>*JI r-l ^i— I JLi yb Tiii 3 

KLilkJLa CwJi _J 

^ gjJUl J^lSOl iUAJI Si V J>j Cutf" il~>-% 

•(° T #L -0 3^ u^i (- 1 5 


1 So let the people who hold this opinion be silent, 

for they are disputing on behalf of Satan! 

2 For he (by my life!) had desired that that one who was crucified on Golgotha 

not be God 

(even if God were joined with him). 

3 For in that case he would have had sure rest from his shame, 

would have consolidated his authority, 

and would have abided, making manifest to the nations 
the bond of sin which our father Adam wrote, 

4 and would be guarding the host of souls under his hand in the dungeon of Hell, 

and the bodies would have been immersed until there was nothing 
but the complete corruption which had come upon them, 

5 and righteousness would not have shone at all among the children of Adam. 

For the Melkite Abu Qurrah, it is necessary to say that the one who died on the 
cross was God. The controversy that such affirmations aroused will be the theme of 
the next chapter. 

267. From "The Letter to David the Jacobite," BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 137/11-13: .0> c_JUf ji . . . 
^....l..! j-. LuaJL>- oL>- ol. JjuJI y*-, esL i(U o-^l j^i) 4_Nl i^Ji i- ^ ^ *L_iVl 

? ^j. y\^\ } I'. .Irt^Jl j O j. 

268. Ibid., lines 14-19. 

Chapter Five 

I. ". . . God . . . died": Paradox or Blasphemy? 

A. The "Paradox Christology": From the New Testament to Nicaea^ 

From the earliest strata of the New Testament witness we find forms of 
discourse about Jesus of Nazareth, confessed by his followers as the Messiah or 
"Christ" of Israel, that present extremely peculiar features. On the one hand, his 
human birth, life, suffering and death are narrated, summarily in some of the 
traditional materials preserved in the epistles (e.g. Gal. 4:4, 1 Cor. 15:3-4, Rom. 4:25, 1 
Pet. 2:21-24, etc.) and more fully in the materials that went into the making of the 
gospels. But on the other hand, and equally early in the history of the New 
Testament tradition, divine titles are predicated of Jesus: the primitive Christian 
confession "Jesus is Lord" (1 Cor. 12:3, Rom. 10:9, Phil. 2:11, etc.) is the earliest example, 
although later (and perhaps already in Rom. 9:5) Jesus is called "God." Furthermore, 
in much early New Testament discourse there is a semantic pairing, at times 
approaching interchangeability, between "Jesus Christ" and "God." In St. Paul, as 
Robert Jenson has pointed out/ 2 ) 

the standard Hebrew theological predicates take either God or Jesus as subject, or both 
at once: for example, "grace" is interchangeably "of God" (Rom. 5:15) or "of Christ" 
(Rom. 16:20) or bestowed "from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 1:7). 
Parallel constructions have "God" in one part and "Christ" in the other: "So we are 
ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us" (2 Cor. 5:20). For Paul, 
God will rule his kingdom, Jesus is Lord, and these two circumstances are one fact 
only: "For the kingdom of God [means] righteousness and peace . . . ; he who thus 
serves Christ is acceptable" (Rom. 14:17-18, e.g.). Christ simply is "the power of God 
and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24), the manifestation of that "righteousness" in which 
Judaism summed up the godliness of God (Rom. 3:21-22). 

Such examples may be multiplied, and all go to show that St. John's report of the 
confession of Thomas before the crucified and risen but palpable Christ, "My Lord 

In the following section I am greatly indebted to Professor Robert W. Jenson, especially for a 
course of lectures in the fall of 1980 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and for his book The Triune 
Identity (JENSON, Identity (1984)), in particular Chapters 2 and 3. 
JENSON, Identity (1984), 41. 



and my God," is not at all foreign to what we might call the grammar of New 
Testament discourse. In this discourse, as in the Church's subsequent language of 
prayer, proclamation, and instruction, we find that attributes, activities, and titles 
proper to human beings and attributes, activities, and titles proper to God may be 
predicated of a single subject, Jesus Christ. 

For the religious imagination formed exclusively by the Hebrew scriptures, this 
odd talk about Jesus would have posed no fundamental conceptual difficulty, 
whatever its challenges of content and claim. For the Hebrew scriptures, after all, 
human history is the arena in which God performs His mighty works; the interaction 
and intersection of the divine and the human in time is the stuff of their narrative. 
With the conversion to the Gospel of persons whose religious imaginations had been 
molded by Hellenism, however, the double human/divine predication of the one 
subject, Jesus Christ, became far more problematic. Late Hellenism's Deity is 
typically described as that which is beyond time and immune to change: 
ayevvritoc, ("unoriginate"), ajtaGrjc, ("impassible"), axQovoc, ("atemporal"), 
aopaioc, ("invisible"), a\j/r|Xa(pr|toc, ("impalpable")/ 3 ) But these attributes are the 
precise opposites of those that describe human existence, and, in particular, those that 
emerge from the story of Jesus of Nazareth, born when Quirinius was governor of 
Syria and crucified under Pontius Pilate. When Hellenists-become-Christians came to 
speak of Christ, they used both the divine attributes provided by Hellenism's 
commonplaces about divinity and the human attributes provided by the biblical 
narrative to produce astonishing formulations such as the following confession of 
St Ignatius of Antioch (d. 117 at the latest)/") 

There is one physician: 

in death 
of Mary 
first passible 
Jesus Christ our Lord. 

and spiritual, 
and unoriginate, 

the true life, 

and of God, 

and then impassible, 

Similarly, Melito of Sardis (d. before 190) has creation witnessing the "Lord hanging 
on a tree" and saying/ 5 ' 

3. The list is that of CAMELOT, Ignace (1969), 28. 

4. Ephesians VII, 2; ET made from Greek text in CAMELOT, Ignace (1969), 64. For a discussion of 
the text see ibid., 27. 

5. From Melito's Fragment 13. The ET is that of HALL, Melito (1979), 80-81. A reconstructed Greek 
text is offered by RICHARD, "Meliton" (1972), 316-17. 


"What can this strange mystery be? 

The judge is judged, 

the invisible is seen, 

the incomprehensible is seized, 

the immeasurable is measured, 

the impassible suffers, 

the immortal dies, 

the heavenly one is buried. 

and is silent; 

and is not ashamed; 

and is not vexed; 

and does not resist; 

and does not retaliate; 

and takes it patiently; 

and submits. 

What is this strange mystery?" 

Elsewhere, Melito says of Christ:^) 

He was . . . carried in the womb by Mary, 

treading the earth, 

wanting food . . . , 

He stood before Pilate, 

He was fastened to the tree, 

and clothed with his Father; 

and filling heaven . . . ; 

and not ceasing to nourish the world . . . . 

and sat with the Father; 

and held the universe. 

Robert Jenson has called this manner of speaking about Christ, in which 
attributes derived from the common-sense Hellenistic understanding of God are paired 
with Christ's human attributes and/or items from his story, the "paradox christology."( 7 > 
No synthesis is attempted, rather, the paradoxes involved in the Incarnation of God 
are allowed to stand -- nay, are painstakingly formulated and positively celebrated as 
the mystery of salvation in which faith (though not Hellenistic religious common 
sense!) may delight. 

That such teaching should cause offence was but natural. Already St. Paul 
knew from hard experience that the preaching of the crucifixion of Christ -- the 
"Lord of glory" (1 Cor. 2:8) -- was "a stumbling-block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" 
(1 Cor. 1:23). However, most dangerous to the teaching of what became 
acknowledged as "orthodox" Christian belief were not charges of absurdity from 
outside the Christian community, but rather the attempts of some within the broad 
community of followers of Christ to mitigate the paradoxes. These attempts often 
took the form of denying that one or the other set of attributes held together by the 
"paradox christology" was really predicable of the one subject Jesus Christ. Perhaps 
the human attributes could not really be predicated of Christ (as in some Gnostic 
systems), or perhaps the attributes of divinity were not fully appropriate for 
describing him (as in Arianism). 

As it happened, that which became "orthodox" Christianity refused the 
mitigation of the paradox, as can immediately be seen from the second article of the 
Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed. The "one Lord Jesus Christ" in whom Christians 
believe is first described as "the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father 
before all worlds, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, 
begotten not made, of one substance with the Father, through whom all things were 

6. From Fragment 14. Again, the ET is that of HALL, Melito (1979), 81-82. 

7. JENSON, Identity (1984), p. 63. 


made." But afterwards the same subject is described as one "who . . . was 
incarnate . . . from the virgin Mary and became man, and was crucified for us under 
Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried." 

As we speak below of "Nestorian," "Melkite," and "Jacobite" Christians, it will 
be important to keep in mind that they all accepted the Nicene-Constantinopolitan 
creed as the chief symbol of Christian orthodoxy/ 8 ) and thus were all prepared to 
confess that the "one Lord, Jesus Christ, . . . God from God, . . . was crucified for us 
under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried." Whatever differences these 
communities may have had with regard to the interpretation of such sentences, they 
all accepted the "paradox christology" as - somehow - correct. 

B. Later Christological Developments: From Nicaea to the Dar al-IsldmW 

The "paradox christology" of the Christian apostolic fathers did not amount to 
much more than a rhetorical model for saying what biblically-formed Christian faith 
considered necessary to say about Jesus Christ. It did not explain how it was that 
two sets of attributes, one divine and one human, could be predicated of one subject, 
nor did it define that in which the oneness of this subject subsisted. It offered no 
logical synthesis of, on the one hand, the biblical double divine/human predication of 
a single subject, and, on the other, Hellenistic religious common sense. The distinctive 
christological emphases of the famous theological "schools" associated with Alexandria 
and Antioch correspond to the two sides of this unresolved problem: the 
Alexandrians tended first to emphasize the singleness of subject of 
God-the-Word-become-flesh for our salvation, while the Antiochenes were quick to 
insist upon the distinctions necessary in order to maintain God's impassibility, that is, 
His immunity to suffering, change and decay. 

These concerns led to varied interpretations and emphases with regard to the 
traditional christological paradox rhetoric. While all Nicene theologians were agreed 
that both things divine and things human could be predicated of the common subject 
Christ, differences emerged with regard to "cross-predication,'^ 1 °> in particular, the 
matching of human attributes and activities with the divine titles. For preeminent 

8. The "Nestorian" Church of the East officially accepted the Council of Nicaea at its synod at 
Seleucia-Ktesiphon in 410, and a council of 585 recognized that of Constantinople as well. For 
excerpts from the decisions of these councils, see BROCK, "Christology" (1985), 133, 136-38. 

9. There is a vast literature dealing with the development of christological doctrine from the fifth 
through the seventh centuries. For the modest paragraphs that follow, the following works have 
been particularly useful. General introduction: PELIKAN, Emergence (1971), 226-77, idem, Spirit 
(1973), 37-90, and MEYENDORFF, Christ (1975). On the "Monophysites": TORRANCE, Christology 
(1988). On the "Chalcedonians": GRAY, Chalcedon (1979). On the "Nestorians": BROCK, 
"Christology" (1985). 

10. What is usually called the communicatio idiomatum. 


historical example: "Mary bore Christ" is a statement allowed by all, and "Christ is 
God" is a biblical confession of faith. Is it then permissible to combine the two and 
say (with much popular piety) 11 ) "Mary is the God-bearer (Geotoicoc,)"? And if the 
statement be allowed, where does its truth value fall, on a scale ranging from 
unequivocal truth to pious shorthand not to be taken literally? To this first example 
must be added a second: is it permissible to pair "Christ suffered, was crucified, and 
died" with "Christ is God" to produce "God . . . suffered, was crucified, and died"? 

For the Alexandrian christology as represented especially by Cyril, patriarch of 
Alexandria (412-42), by his Incarnation God the Word in literal fact came to possess, 
as his own, a human history -- including birth from the Virgin Mary and crucifixion 
under Pontius Pilate. The confessions that Mary is GeotoKoc,, and that God the Word 
in flesh suffered, was crucified, and tasted death/ 1 ?) are affirmations of this mystery. 
For the Antiochene christology, for which Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople 
(428-31), became a spokesman and for some of whose currents he provided a 
patronymic, great care must be taken to distinguish and not to confuse the divine and 
the human in Christ. For Nestorius and many theologians of an Antiochene mind, the 
title GeotoKoc, was dangerously misleading and, if allowed, in need of the most careful 
definition. Similarly, formulae about the death of Christ should make it clear that it 
is his humanity alone that suffered and died. 

The christology of Cyril won the day at the Third Ecumenical Council 
(Ephesus, 431), at which Mary was proclaimed OeoxoKoc, and Nestorius deposed and 
exiled. This Alexandrian victory hardly meant the end of the Antiochene christology, 
however. At the Synod of Seleucia-Ktesiphon in 486, the "Church of the East," which 
gathered together Christians on the Sassanian side of the Byzantine/Sassanian frontier, 
adopted a straightforwardly Antiochene christological statement/ 13 ) And within the 
Byzantine empire, many Antiochene christologians considered their position vindicated 
by the "dyophysite" christological definition of the Fourth Council at Chalcedon 

Despite the satisfaction of some Antiochene theologians with Chalcedon, recent 
research strongly suggests that it was predominantly an Alexandrian, Cyrillian council. 
Unfortunately, however, it resulted in division between those who clung to Cyril's 
own formulations - in particular his uaa cpuoic, tou 0eou Aoyou aeoaQKa>p.8vr| ( "one 
incarnate nature of God the Word") - as the touchstone of christological orthodoxy, 
and those who were willing to adopt the innovative vocabulary of the Chalcedonian 
Definition - uxa wiootaaic, ("one hypostasis"), ev 5uo cpuoeoi ("in two natures") - in 

11. See PELIKAN, Emergence (1971), 241. 

12. This is the language of Cyril's twelfth anathema against Nestorius (WICKHAM, Letters (1983), 

13. See the ET in BROCK, "Christology" (1985), 133-34. 

14. See GRAY, Chalcedon (1979), 80-89. 


order to express and protect Cyril's deepest insights/ 15 ) The severe polemics that 
ensued between these Cyrillian "conservatives" (who have traditionally but pejoratively 
been called "Monophysites") and Cyrillian "progressives" (those who accepted the 
Chalcedonian definition) obscure their similarities. The post-Chalcedonian 
controversies that broke out over "theopaschite" formulae are instructive in this 
regard. In the late fifth and early sixth centuries the Trisagion hymn was sung in the 
interpolated form "Holy God, holy Mighty One, holy Deathless One, who was 
crucified for us, have mercy upon us"< 16 ) as an a«rf'-Chalcedonian slogan. But the 
other famous "theopaschite" formula, "one of the Trinity was crucified," was proposed 
in 518-19 by the Scythian Monks as a defence of Chalcedon, and as such was 
promulgated as orthodox by the Emperor Justinian in 533/ ,7 > All of Cyril's heirs 
understood that, through the Incarnation, God the Word made his own all that belongs 
to humanity (apart from sin) -- including suffering and death. This is as clear in the 
thought of the great anti-Chalcedonian disciple of Cyril, Severus of Antioch (ca. 
465-538)/ 18 ) as it is in the "neo-Chalcedonian" teaching of the Fifth Council 
(Constantinople, 553), which declared that Christ's one Gjtooiaoic, is that of the eternal 
Word of God. Cyril's Chalcedonian and anti-Chalcedonian followers all gladly 
embraced the "paradox christology" at its sharpest: "God (the Word, the second 
person of the Trinity) died." 

C. "Melkites," "Jacobites," and "Nestorians"c9) 

The Muslim conquests of the seventh century in effect created a Christian 
"denominational" system within the Dar al-lsldm. Christians who had belonged to the 
(Chalcedonian) faith of the Byzantine emperor - in Arabic called al-Malikiyyah or 
al-Malikiyyun or Melkites, "the king's party" -- no longer enjoyed the privileges of 

15. The historical case for this is convincingly argued by GRAY, Chalcedon (1979), 7-16. I believe 
that we can say that the Chalcedonian Definition amounted to little more than a proposal 
— though with imperial backing! — for "second order" terminology in the service of the "first 
order" paradox rhetoric enthusiastically embraced by all Cyrillians. 

16. See below, p. 271. 

17. GRAY, Chalcedon (1979), 48-50, 57-58. 

18. See TORRANCE, Christology (1988), 78. 

19. It should be clear that these labels — Melkite, Jacobite, Nestorian — are not good descriptions of 
the major Christian ecclesial communities existing within the Islamic caliphate. Their theologies, 
certainly, would be better labelled with the names, respectively, of John of Damascus, Severus of 
Antioch, and Theodore of Mopsuestia! Furthermore, in the course of the centuries "Melkite" has 
shifted meaning so as to denote the Catholic heirs of the ancient Melkite community, "Jacobite" 
has mostly fallen into disuse, and "Nestorian" has come to denote a christological heresy angrily 
rejected by most of the heirs of the ancient Church of the East. It is therefore important to 
state that, while in this work I continue to use the traditional labels, I do so solely because they 
are ubiquitous in the Arabic texts, both Christian and Islamic, studied here. 


"establishment," but were forced to compete on equal terms with the 
non-Chalcedonian Cyrillians, called al-Y a' qubiyyah or al-Y a! aqibah or Jacobites (after 
their great ecclesiastical organizer Jacob Baradaeus). And with the disappearance of 
the old frontier and the conquest of the Sassanid Empire, the followers of the Church 
of the East - in Arabic texts called al-Nasturiyyah or al-Nasdtirah or Nestorians - 
became fellow dimmis with the Melkites and the Jacobites. These three communities 
brought their traditional christological stances and their attendant polemics with them 
into the Ddr al-Isldm. If anything, the polemics between the Melkites, Jacobites, and 
Nestorians within the Ddr al-Isldm were sharpened by their suddenly finding 
themselves together in a single political entity, sharing the same "disestablished" status 
vis-a-vis the ruling class. They therefore could and had to compete as equals. This 
new situation resulted in strong pressures on each community to differentiate itself 
from its competitors, although an opposing pressure should be noted: the occasional 
necessity of presenting a "common front" to Muslim questioners, for whom Christian 
divisions presented simply one more proof of the incoherence of Christian doctrine/ 20 ) 

The technical language of christology gradually came into Arabic, not without 
the confusion to be expected when three communities with their own previous 
theological and liturgical traditions in Greek and Syriac attempted to translate these 
traditions into a language already heavily freighted with Islamic religious significance. 
For example, with regard to the technical terms of Chalcedon (for which we might 
have expected a standard set of Arabic equivalents to take hold quickly) we find the 
terms used among Arabic-speaking Chalcedonians today, uqnum (or qunum) for 
ujiootaoic, and tabi'ah for cpuoic,, as early as in Theodore Abu Qurrah.< 2 » However, 
other Melkite writers used gawhar to represent (puoi£,;< 22 > indeed, gawhar regularly 
appears in ninth-century Arabic Christian texts as a rendering of Syriac kydnd, which 
for East and West Syrians alike regularly represented cpuou,. As for ujiootaoic;, Peter 
of Bayt Ra's attempted in his al-Burhdn to create adequate equivalents for the 
vocabulary of the neo-Chalcedonian christology by rendering it as qiwdm, and then 
using qawwama and its derivatives for evu(piotr|[ii ("to enhypostasize") and related 
words/ 23 ) 

With regard to "theopaschite" language, considerable potential for confusion 
arose from the problem of how to speak Christianly of "God" in Arabic. The Qur'an 
and the earliest Muslim tradition distinguished between ildh and Allah, as is clear 
from the first half of the Islamic confession of faith or sahddah: la ildha ilia -lldh, 
"there is no god (ildh) but God (Allah)." Here and generally in Muslim usage, ildh 

20. On this "ecumenical" moment in Arabic christology, see (for example) SAMIR, "Terre-Sainte" 
(1980), 354-66. 

21. For example, in his "Confession," DICK, "Ecrits" (1959), 57/8. 

22. For example, Ibrahim al-Tabarani (MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), 440-41 (#378), 472-75 (#437, 441)) 
or the author of al-Gami' wuguh al-lman (as in the passage cited below, pp. 265-66). 

23. See for example CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61), I, 69/12-13 (#109), with comment in 
SWANSON, "Ibn Taymiyya" (1990). 


may denote any deity, including the true one, while Allah functions very nearly as a 
proper name for the one true God/ 24 ' In Christian use, the Greek (6) Geoc, and the 
Syriac alaha were less specialized, with ranges of meaning overlapping much of the 
ground covered by both Arabic terms. So, how were sentences such as "Christ, who is 
God and Son of God, was crucified," or simply "God died," to be translated? 

No strict conventions governing the Christian use of Allah and ilah may be 
discerned in our literature. Christological traditions may help in explaining the 
differences between (a) the Jacobite Abu Ra'itah's daring-sounding theopaschite 
formulations, "Allah was crucified," "Allah died"/ 25 ' (b) the Melkite Abu Qurrah's 
confession that "Christ is God (ilah) and Son of God (ibn ilah) . . J 26 ) even if he 
suffered the pains and crucifixion attributed to him"/ 27 ' and (c) the Nestorian 
'Ammar's statement, "this Son of God (ibn Allah) was crucified, died, and was 
buried."( 28 > 

The christologically-based scheme of usage suggested by the above paragraph -- 
that the one who died is Allah for the Jacobites, ilah for the Melkites, and ibn Allah 
for the Nestorians -- is, unfortunately, far too tidy. It is upset by any number of 
texts, for example the following paragraph from the Melkite compendium al-Gami 
wuguh al-iman, which speaks of Christ as "God (Allah) the Son of God (Allah), the 
one who . . . accepted ... the death of the cross"/ 29 ' 

24. GIMARET (Noms divins (1988), 90) notes that al-Bagdadi, al-Gazali, and Fahr al-Din al-RazT all 
argued that Allah is God's ism hass or proper name. 

25. See, for example, his "On the Incarnation," GRAF, Abu Raitah (1951), 39 (#15), or his Arabic 
rendering of the Trisagion (see below, pp. 271-74). 

26. Theodore also uses ibn Allah, as in "On the Confirmation of the Gospel," BACH A, Mayamir (1904), 
73/7. It is especially in Melkite texts that we see a trend towards reserving Allah for the Father, 
or for the Holy Trinity, as in al-Gami wuguh al-iman, ch. 14, wagh 1 (BL or. 4950, f. 76 r ), or the 
Burhan of Peter of Bayt Ra's (CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61), I, 102/8-12 (#170)). 

27. From "On the Law and the Gospel and the Chalcedonian Faith," BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 151/9-10. 

28. jj'ij oL.j I iJu. j»l from the Kitab al-burhan, Ch. 3, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 36V22. 
See also the parallel passage in his Kitab al-masa'il wa-l-agwibah, 11,7, ibid., 138*. Regarding 
Nestorian use of such language, a comment of Sebastian Brock concerning the christology of the 
Church of the East in the fifth and sixth centuries bears repetition: "for all the traditional dislike 
of theopaschite language in writers of the East Syrian tradition, there is never any doubt that God 
the Word, in his humanity, suffered and died", BROCK, "Christology" (1985), 131. But also see 
below, pp. 247-49. 

29. BL or. 4950, f. 81 v /9-17. 


i[sic] i-L>- i ^-Jl jLo ^JUI 3i j-*JL> *^JUi 

c^JI Jl ^Lpr ^ a ^ 3 

(ill ill yh ^ -Uj ^JUI ilJS jl (2} l 

till JLlp Jyj ^JUI iSJi 

( yLJI J>V_> JUj "^yT jjn L» Ji' JJLj 

i.^-JUaJI Ji 

(1) MS jyUL. (2) MS j^j* 


1 Athanasius, in his discourse to Bishop Maximus, said: 

2 "[As for] you, 

lovingly reprove those who are unbelievers from among the new Jews, 
[persuading them] that the one who was born is God (Allah) Most High, 
both accepting pains and performing wonders. 

3 Perhaps they will turn from their ignorance to the knowledge of the truth, 

and will believe that the one who was born from Mary 
is God (Allah) the Son of God (Allah), 
the one who is eternally with God (Allah) 
and by whom all things were made, 

4 and that he willingly came to a human birth 

and accepted all that comes after a human birth, 
to the extent of the death of the cross." 

This Arabic text corresponds not to the original Greek of Athanasius' letter but to the 
Syriac version, which has been edited and published by Robert Thomson.^ 30 ) A 
comparison of the Syriac and Arabic texts not only helps in understanding some of 

30. THOMSON, Athanasiana II (1967), 37-41 [ET 31-34]. The Syriac original of the above passage is 
found at p. 40 [ET 33-341 


the less grammatical features of the latter/ 3 ') but also confirms that every instance of 
Syriac alaha is rendered by Arabic Allah. And thus we are put on notice that 
linguistic background may be playing as great a role as christological considerations in 
the choice of terminology with which to express the death of the one confessed as 
God. For native Syriac speakers, translating alaha as Allah must have come very 
naturally, despite the different semantic ranges of the two terms, and thus we must be 
on guard against over-interpreting sentences such as "Allah died" in Arabic Christian 
texts. But at the same time, we recognize that Muslims hearing "Allah died" would 
have understood the sentence to mean something rather different than what was 
intended. By means of the alaha/ Allah equation, Alexandrian "theopaschite" language 
came into Arabic in the form best calculated to inflame Muslim sensitivities, since for 
Muslims Allah was the name par excellence of the one, undying God. Polemic that 
would have been sharp in any case was made all the more so as a result of differing 
understandings of Allah. 

In conclusion, it is safe to say that Muslims who troubled to become familiar 
with the teaching of Christians living within the Dar al-lslam would have 
encountered considerable terminological confusion. Despite this confusion, however, 
they would inevitably have heard the confession ". . . God . . . died . . ." (whether ilah 
or, even more offensively, Allah, and whatever the substitutions for the ellipses) in 
the context of a peculiarly paradoxical rhetoric of faith in Christ. Just so, a people 
whom Christian apologists sometimes referred to as the "new Jews,"* 32 ) and sometimes 
as the "new heathen"* 33 ) were confronted with a confession long experienced as a 
stumbling-block to the "original" Jews, and folly to the "former" heathen. 

D. Blasphemous Nonsense! 

At one point in his al-Radd 'aid l-Nasara, written sometime during the 850's, 
the Nestorian convert to Islam 'All al-Tabari wrote:* 34 ) 

31. These features include the lack of L»* before c~Jt, the strange use of j' ...i 31* (translating 

? . . • -r r> ■ 9 \ ) and perhaps the lack of the article in *x>- * _).«Jl (translating |_ 9 ocn_, 

|L r X 

32. See the catholicos Timothy's statement in his Syriac Letter 40: "Also now ... in the days of the 
new Jews who are among us, . . . the scandal of the cross has not left off"; H. CHE1KHO, 
Dialectique (1983), 275 (#7) [FT 1861. 

33. hi idle hanpe in Nonnus of Nisibis; see above, p. (12), note 4. 

34. KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" (1959), 134/1-8. 


4(3 j>*}\ J^JI jJl»- ,JL* c. ii-.ll -ui 

((jj^* j j\j ol _^*-~JI <u— > ^—xj" 2 

a!>JI jii j iL»_~jJI I (^JLII j 3 
jU^JI Ju-^ ^ r | 

jl»*Jlj ii^l ^JUIj 4 
J >T J M ^JUIj 5 

j: ia'> <JJl ijl* <J jlS' 
llj oUlk^Vl ! 

(1) Ed. ifc-j. (2) Ed. (3) S/'c. Below, I have translated Ja_J as if it were l _^L*. 

(4) Ed. ^1. (5) Ed. 


1 If Jesus Christ was the eternal Creator, 

or if he became one thing with the eternal Creator, 
with no division between them in anything at all, 
then the Creator of all was wrapped in rags, 

and his body was enclosed in outer and inner garments! 

2 The one whose "throne encompasses the heavens and the earth" [al-Baqarah (2):255] 

was encompassed by garments and a manger! 

3 The one who created the breath and split the grain of corn [cf. al-An'am (6):95] 

visited banquets, 

caroused with the Jews, 
was called a carpenter, 

and took the name of a guardian, Joseph the carpenter 
(as the Gospel says)! 

4 The one who created the heavenly bodies, the seas, and the rivers 

was conveyed by a donkey, 

and hanged (?) from a wooden pole! 

5 The one who has no beginning and no end, no peer and no equal, 

had a hundred thousand equals in nature, form, and number of years and days! 


6 The one who contrived souls and bodies, 

who created capacities and strength, 
was killed by an enslaved, captive band of Jews! 

We have before us a perfect example of the christological paradox rhetoric, 
Islamic version, differing from similar Christian texts only in that the divine 
attributes paradoxically matched with items from the biblical narrative of Christ's life 
are supplied by the Qur'an and the early kalam rather than by late Hellenism's 
description of deity. But if the form of the passage is the same as many passages 
found in ancient Christian writings, its tone is entirely different. Christians 
revelled in the paradox rhetoric, celebrating by means of it the mystery of the 
Incarnation of God the Word for humanity's salvation. As for 'All, he simply asserts 
that this rhetoric violates the rules for speaking of God/ 35 ) and a few lines later 
comments: "If they say these sorts of things about God, they do not merit a response, 
or even a rebukeH 36 ) 

It is not only in the writings of a convert from Christianity that we find 
Muslim awareness of the Christians' paradoxical rhetoric about Christ. Awareness of 
this kind of speech, and especially its "theopaschite" formulations, is evident in several 
of the oldest texts included in the present survey. Thus the caliph al-Mahdi asked the 
catholicos Timothy, "Is it possible that God should die, given who He is?"< 37 ) And 
toward the end of their dialogue the caliph exclaimed, "Who dares to say that God 
died?! I do not think that even the demons say thisH 38 ) Theodore Abu Qurrah 
warned Christians that their icons of the crucified Christ would incite non-Christians 
to say: "Woe to you! Are you not ashamed that this is your God??"( 39 > And Abu 
Ra'itah recorded the exclamation of a Muslim mutakallim, and his attempt to pose a 
dilemma proving the inanity of the formulations he had heard:( 40 > 


*ul JaJI jJJ JiJ\^j> j+i tiJJi j\S ibid., lines 8-9. On 'All's use of 'sara'it Allah, see next 





„N " • • • 

i li-fc o' Jj> o j>*. L« !_^L>ijj, in "On Prostration to the Icons," DICK, I cones (1986), 215 




In "On the Incarnation," GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 39 (#15). 



How astonishing your intellects are, how they have endured and assented to this 
statement about a god who dies and is killed! 

Inform us about the one who died: is it possible that He be alive? And 
concerning the one who is not alive, is it possible that He be a god, ruler [of the 

If you respond that He died, then He came to nought; and if He came to nought, 
then His rule and governance came to nought; and if His governance came to nought, 
then the world remained without a rulerJ^ 41 ) 

These examples give a sense of the mixture of astonishment and scorn with 
which Muslims reacted to the paradoxical Christian language about Christ It is not 
difficult to explain this reaction. After all, the otherness of God from all that is 
created is a leading theme of the Qur'an. There we read, for example: 4JLl*J" ^-^J 
("Like Him there is nought")/ 42 ) jUa_-^l a^jJJ V ("The eyes attain Him not")/ 43 ) 
iLL»JI ^ £-tj-^ 4-! Cr^-i p— ' ("He has no associate in sovereignty")/ 44 ) While 
comparisons must be made with caution/ 45 ) there are certain similarities between the 
Qur'anic negations such as the ones just cited and their expansions in the early 
kalamwi on the one hand, and the negative (a-) attributes (wnoriginate, impassible, 
^temporal, invisible, impalpable, etc.) of the Hellenistic description of divinity as taken 
over in Christian God-discourse, on the other. These similarities are sufficient that 
'All al-Tabari could confidently claim in his al-Radd 'aid l-Nasara that Christians and 
Muslims agree upon a long list of what he calls the sarait Allah, "conditions of God": 
eternal (qadim), singular (fard), without associates, family or companions, 
incomprehensible, without increase or decrease, without earthly needs or passions, 
incomparable, indescribable, unsleeping, all-knowing, all-victorious, and certainly not 
subject to decay and death/ 47 ) 

Most Christians would have conceded numerous points of agreement with 
'All's description of God, and we have already seen how a number of these or similar 
attributes could be predicated of Christ by means of the "paradox christology." What 

41. This argument has a long history in the form "Who ruled the world when God became 
incarnate?" See the discussion, from the year 644, of 'Umayr b. Sa'd with the Syrian patriarch 
John; NAU, "Colloque" (1915), 249/5-7 [FT 258 (#4)1 

42. al-Sura (42):11. 

43. al-Aridm (6*103. 

44. al-lsra (17):111, al-Furqan (25)2. 

45. R.M. Frank has been eloquent in warning against attempting to understand the early Islamic kalam 
(not to speak of the Qur'an itself!) in terms of the "Greek" philosophical or patristic theological 
heritage. See FRANK, Beings (1978), 5. 

46. In particular, in the doctrines of the Mu'tazilah (the ahl al-'adl wa-/-tawhld). See al-As'ari's 
impressive summary of Mu'tazilite God-discourse in his Maqalat al-lslamiyyin; RITTER, Lehren 
(1929-33), 155/2-156/14 [ET WATT, Period (1973), 246-47]. 

47. The complete list of 'All's "twelve points of agreement" is found in KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" 
(1959), 128/19-129/2. 


distinguishes 'All's use of this list, however, is a presupposition that remains unspoken, 
but which is the precise denial of the "paradox christology": God has attributes 
appropriate to His divinity, human beings have attributes appropriate to their 
creatureliness, and they may not be predicated of one and the same subject. That 
which has divine attributes is God -- and not human; that which has specifically 
human attributes is human - and not God. Given this principle, any aspect of the 
human life of Christ may function as proof that he is not God -- as 'All tirelessly 
asserts in al-Radd, where he is prepared to use even the New Testament accounts of 
Christ's passion and death as grist for his polemical mill.( 48 > The agony in Gethsemane 
and the cry of dereliction from the cross prove that (an agonizing, abandoned) Christ 
addressed another as God -- and therefore was not himself God.< 49 > The narrative of 
the Last Supper, and that of Christ's post-resurrection appearance to the disciples, 
prove that Christ was body and blood, flesh and bone - and therefore not God.' 50 ' 
The confession that Christ was "killed in the days of Pontius Pilate" admits that he 
was temporally limited -- and therefore not God.< 51 > That his hands could be nailed 
and his side pierced, that he could bleed and give up his spirit, all prove that Christ 
was subject to division and separation - and therefore not God.( 52 > 

This sort of polemic is by no means new with 'All al-Tabari; its roots are to be 
found in the Qur'an. Take, for example, a text that is given prominence in the 
refutation of al-Qasim b. Ibrahim/ 53 ' al-Ma'idah (5):75. To those who say that "God is 
the Messiah, Mary's Son,"< 54 ) the Qur'an's response is: oi J^-j >l q^-^JI L. 

|.UiaJI UlT a-4jJU» *S\j i^L-j-II 4JLJ jj* CJL>- ("The Messiah, son of Mary, was 

only an Apostle; Apostles before him passed away; his mother was a just woman; they 

48. In al-Radd, allusions to the gospel passion narratives are so frequent that the reader would get the 
impression that 'All accepts them as historically reliable were it not for the very occasional 
disclaimer, jj^-L L«-J ("as they say," e.g., ibid., 135/6) or Oy^e-yj U_j ("as they claim," e.g., ibid., 
139/15-16). Perhaps it was nervousness about the Islamic propriety of using the Christian accounts 
of the passion of Christ in this way that led the author of "The Letter of 'Umar," who in many 
things follows 'All al-Tabari quite closely, to refrain from any such use, and instead to emphasize 
his belief in the falsification of the Christian scriptures; see GAUDEUL, "Letter" (1984), 135-36. In 
addition, '"Umar's" quotations from the gospels are very frequently introduced with ("you 
have claimed"); see SOURDEL, "Pamphlet" (1966), esp. 29-31. 

49. Gethsemane: KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" (1959), 127/6-8, 132/4-6, 145/4-14. Cry of dereliction: 
ibid., 124/11-12, 144/21-22. 

50. Last Supper: ibid., 124/12-16. Post-resurrection appearance: ibid., 125/6-10. Cf. al-'Asari's 
Mu'tazilite creed: ijj-o "V) ii»r p~>*y> < _ r -Jj ("He is not a body, a figure, 
a corpse, or an image; He is neither flesh nor blood"); RITTER, Lehren (1929-33), 155/3-4. 

51. KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" (1959), 126/9-11. Cf. al-'Asari's creed: jL.j ^ ^ V ("Time does 
not pass over Him"); RITTER, Lehren (1929-33), 155/9. 

52. KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" (1959), 130/21; 131/15-16. Once again, compare the Mu'tazilite creed: ^ 

' Vj . . . (Jl ("no separation . . . nor partition"); RITTER, Lehren (1929-33), 155/6-7. 

53. See DI MATTEO, "Confutazione" (1921-22), 307/11-308/9 [IT 335-361 

54. jj\ ... » 1 1 4>l ji; al-Ma'idah (5):72. 


both ate food."). For the Qur'an, the fact that Christ ate food is a clear and 
convincing refutation of any claim to his divinity, a conclusion that al-Qasim puts 
into rhymed prosed 55 ' 

.Xsj^jJI o^saJI oiL^JI Jlyafl 


In that which God has declared about his eating food, 

in clear, perspicuous verses 
Is that which voids what the Christians have said 

in lying, blasphemous, wicked discourses. 

A human activity such as eating simply may not be predicated of a bearer of divine 
attributes. Here and elsewhere, in complete contrast to the New Testament, the 
Qur'an gives no warrant for the simultaneous predication of divine and human 
attributes to Jesus -- or to anyone else. The Creator/creature, Lord/slave distinction is 
a strict either/or. In Qur'anic speech, the divine mubtada' and any human habarw 
are only linked by negative particles; there is no parallel to the New Testament's 
eyevexo (John 1:14). 

Christ's eating food as a refutation of claims about his divinity was an 
argument that could be readily elaborated. Supplementing al-Ma'idah (5):75 with 
parallel* 57 ) and related* 58 ' Qur'anic passages results in a list of activities which may not 
be attributed to God: eating, drinking, walking in the marketplace, sleeping/ 59 ) Those 
who wrote polemics against Christian beliefs created yet longer lists, carefully shaping 
them for maximum rhetorical effect. Consider one of the earliest such lists in our 
possession, a comment of al-Gahiz on the Christian Byzantines:* 60 ) 

LJLi V j tUi-U* LJ 

55. DI MATTEO, "Confutazione" (1921-22), 307/19-21 [IT 335]. 

56. The mubtada and habar are, respectively, the subject and predicate of a nominal sentence. 

57. al-Anbiya (21):8; al-Furqan {25)1, 20; al-Muminun (23):33. 

58. E.g., al-Baqarah (2):255. 

59. See, for example, 'The Letter of 'Umar," GAUDEUL, "Correspondence" (1984), 144 (#44-45). 

60. PELLAT, "Croyances" (1967), 99/19-100/5 [FT 86]. 


.» „ ■* 


Had we not seen it with our own eyes and heard it with our own ears, 
we would not have believed or accepted 
that a nation of theologians, physicians, astrologers, people of ingenuity, 
mathematicians, scribes, and masters of every craft 
could say of a man they had seen eating and drinking, 
urinating and defecating/ 61 ) 
hungering and thirsting, 
dressing and undressing, 
increasing and decreasing, 
and finally killed (according to their claim) and crucified, 
that he is a Creator Lord, and a Sustainer God, 
eternal, without beginning in time, 

putting the living to death, and bringing the dead to life, 

able to create, if he willed, many times over what is in the world; 
and then to glory in his killing and crucifixion, 

as the Jews glory in having killed and crucified him! 

Here we see a polemical use of the account of the crucifixion that became 
extremely common in the Islamic radd literature: as the climax of a list of Christ's 
earthly vicissitudes, none of which (for the Qur'anicly-formed mind) may be 

61. al-Gahiz is our first witness in the Islamic polemic for this particular pair of human activities. 
(We also find it in his al-Radd 'aid l-Nasdra, 'ABD AL-SALAM, al-Gdhiz (1979), III, 350 or 
SARQAWI, Muhtar (1984), 125. For later instances, see 'AH al-Tabari's al-Radd 'aid l-Nasdra, 
KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" (1959), 131/21, 134/10; or "The Story of Waul, GRIFFITH, "Bashir" 
(1990), 318/13.) Its polemical effectiveness was such that, in the thirteenth century, the Coptic 
apologist al-Safi b. al-'Assal wrote a (now lost) treatise on the tagawwut ("defecation") of Christ; 
see SAMIR, "Chapitres" (1985), 36. 


predicated of God.< 62 > For al-Gahiz, the Christian claim that the one confessed as Lord 
and God was crucified is incredible nonsense, an occasion for (finely-honed rhetorical) 
astonishment. Others are even stronger in their condemnation. While derivatives of 
the Arabic root fry ("to fabricate lying, calumnious speech"; nearly, "to blaspheme") 
are used by Muslim polemicists to describe Christian doctrine in general/ 63 ) the sense 
of calumny or blasphemy is perhaps at its sharpest when the claim at issue is the 
death of the one who is God, or with whom God is united in some intimate sense. 
Thus the redactor of the Ibrahim al-Tabarani debate has a Muslim bedouin burst out 
with:< 6 ") 


You community of Christians 

blaspheme (taftarun) openly against God, 
because you claim that the eternal Word of God dwelled in 'Isa 

outwardly and inwardly, 
and that 'Isa was crucified on a tree, 

stuck with a spear, 

and pierced in his hands and feet! 

And against those who claim that the Creator ate in Jesus Christ's eating, hungered in 
his hungering, wept in his weeping, fled in his fleeing, and was killed in his killing, 
'All al-Tabari exclaims:< 65 > 

62. Other good examples of such lists are found in the Radd of each of the following: al-Qasim b. 
Ibrahim (DI MATTEO, "Confutazione" (1921-22), 307/14-21); 'All al-Tabari (KHALIFE/KUTSCH, 
"Radd" (1959), 131/18-132/1 and 133/19-134/11); and Abu Isa al-Warraq (PLATTI, Incarnation (1987), 
97 (#83). 

63. For the Quranic basis to such usage, see al-Nisa (4):48. In "On Christ's Freely Chosen Death" 
Abu Qurrah records the following exchange between a Christian and a Muslim: "Don't you claim 
that we blaspheme (naftarl) against your God?" "Yes, with blasphemy of the worst sort (asadd 
al-iftiraj' SAMIR, "Salb" (1984), 417 (#4). 

64. MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), #326-28. 

65. In al Radd 'ala l-Nasara, KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" (1959), 131/25-132/1. 



This is the most repugnant possible blasphemy (firyah) 
and seduction [by false doctrine], 

and the worst possible belittling of the greatness 
of Him whose is the majesty and the honor! 

II. Christian Explanations, Muslim Refutations 

A. Christian Attempts to Explain 

Christians living within the Dar al-lslam were by no means defenceless against 
the charges of nonsense and blasphemy coming from Muslim questioners and 
polemicists. The christologies that Nestorians, Melkites, and Jacobites brought into 
Arabic had been forged in bitter controversy, and charges such as those the Muslims 
were making were not entirely new to them. 

As has already been noted, the Christian authors studied here all confessed the 
Nicene-Constantinopolitan creed, and were committed to the "paradox christology" in 
the form in which the second article of the creed presents it: the "one Lord Jesus 
Christ" is one single subject, but there is a divine/human duality of predication: "God 
from God'V'crucified for us under Pontius Pilate." All the confessions agreed that it is 
at least permissible to think of a divinity/humanity, lahutlnasut distinction within the 
one Christ. For each of the Christian communities, therefore, the lahutlnasut 
distinction was ready to hand as a first step in explaining to Muslims that Christians 
do not predicate suffering, death, and change to God from the standpoint of His 
eternal divinity. If an anonymous Nestorian apologist could write, "He was killed in 
his humanity (bi-nasutihi) but neither killed nor crucified in his divinity 
(bi-lahutihi)"^ his language is precisely echoed by the Jacobite monk Eustathius at 
the opposite end of the christological spectrum: "But we say that he died in his 
humanity (bi-nasutihi), not in his divinity (bi-lahutihi)." 1 - 6 ^ And in the Chalcedonian 
center we find Bishop Peter of Bayt Ra's writing, "It is he who died in his humanity 
(bi-nasutihi), . . . and it is he who rose on the third day by the power of his divinity 

66. c y>*^j_ > U» l» j L.j C ^-Lj Jsi j from al-Radd 'aid man gahada l-salb, below, p. 300 (#3). 

67. <c V tjJ^-Lj oU oi J_^iJ from the Kitab Ustat, Mingana chr. ar. 52, f. 155 v . 


(bi-qudrat lahutihi).^ 

While the three communities had this recourse to the lahut/ndsut distinction in 
common/ 6 " each community used and explained it in distinctive ways. To get a sense 
of the varying dialectical and illustrative devices used by Nestorians, Melkites, and 
Jacobites in defending their speech about the death of Christ from charges of 
nonsense and blasphemy, we take each community in turn. 

1. Nestorians 

The Antiochene christological grammar adopted by the Church of the East had 
always been strongly shaped by a concern to shield the divine from the vicissitudes of 
the human -- in particular suffering and death. Nestorian speech about the death of 
Christ was therefore less provocative to Muslims than the "theopaschite" language of 
the Melkite and Jacobite heirs of the Cyrillian christology, a fact which Nestorian 
apologists were quite prepared to exploit in seeking the regard of Muslim officials. 
The catholicos Timothy accordingly told the caliph al-Mahdl that God gave 
Muhammad victory over the Byzantines because of their impiety in ascribing 
suffering and death to God in the flesh,( 70 > and later elicited al-Mahdfs relative 
approval for his assertion that "it is the human nature which God the Word put on 
from us that suffered and died" over the Melkite and Jacobite "God suffered and died 
in the flesh."( 71 ' A generation later, the Nestorian author of the "al-Hasimi"-"al-KindT" 
correspondence confidently had "al-Hasimi" say that, whereas the Jacobites are "the 
most unbelieving group [among the Christians], the most repulsive in doctrine, the 
most evil in belief, and the farthest from the truth," the Nestorians are "closest and 
most similar to the doctrines of those who speak justly among the theologians and 
philosphers, and the most inclined to our doctrine, [that of] the Muslim community."^ 2 ' 

These Nestorian apologists appear to have been untroubled by Muslim charges 
that Christians blaspheme in their discourse about the death of Christ. It was others 

68. ...oykV SjOJ.. cJlill ^^Jl ^ ^Li ^iJl y* } . . . s^^Ll. oL» ^dJl jj>, from al-Burhan, CACHIA, 
Demonstration (I960), I, 111 (#191). 

69. In addition to the lahut/ndsut distinction in Christ, the communities were also agreed upon the 
reality of the union between them which was not undone by Christ's death, according to teaching 
standard in the Church since Gregory of Nyssa: after Christ's death, his divinity remained united 
with both his soul (which descended to the dead) and his body (which was placed in the tomb); 
see WICKHAM, "Omnipresence" (1981), esp. 285. In consequence, Christian apologists were not 
greatly troubled when Muslims asked the question: what happened to the union when Christ 
died? See Abu Ra'itah's response to a Muslim's question (GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 40-41 (#16)) 
and Yahya b. 'Adi's response to al-Warraq's question (PLATTI, Incarnation (1987), 32 (#26)). 

70. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 134/2/5-9 [ET 62], and see PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 32* 
(#167) and CASPAR, "Versions" (1977), 151 (#49). 

71. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 159/1/17-160/1/16 [ET 87-88]. 

72. TARTAR, "Dialogue" (1977), 10/1-5 [FT idem, Dialogue (1985), 891 


the Jacobites and Melkites - who predicated death of God; it was a reasonably 
simple matter to explain that Nestorians spoke in a different manner. When, for 
example, the caliph al-Mahdi asked "Can God die?" Timothy's reply took but a few 

lines:' 73 ' 

The Son of God died in that which was united to us. He did not die in that in 
which he was God. Just as when the royal purple and garments are rent the shame of 
it is reckoned to be the king's, so also is reckoned the death of the body of the Son of 

God.< 74 ) 

What Timothy is willing to affirm as literally true is not the blasphemous "God died," 
but a formulation at two genitives' remove: "the body of the Son of God died."( 75 > 
He then is prepared to allow the formulation "the Son of God died," but in a carefully 
circumscribed sense: death is "reckoned" to the Son of God as the shame of the 
violated royal purple is reckoned to the king. Presumably, the caliph al-Mahdi found 
this answer to put satisfactory distance between God and death. 

Timothy responded in similar fashion to a Muslim Aristotelian, according to 
Timothy's (Syriac) Letter 40, which reports on the conversation to the priest Sargis.< 76 > 
According to Timothy, the one fixed to the cross was "the Son of God in the flesh," 
of whom it may be said that he both did and did not suffer and die: the Father's 
consubstantial Word does not suffer nor die, but the flesh suffered, died, and was 
raised. When the Muslim objects that if the flesh died, then God who was in the 
flesh must have died as well, Timothy responds that "in" does not refer to identity of 
hypostasis or essence, but to location. Thus if water or butter are in a container that 
breaks, this does not mean that they too are broken. The light in a mirror that 
breaks is not broken. God is in the sea, in the fire, in the field, but is neither 
drowned, nor burned, nor torn by the plough/ 77 ) 

If Timothy could use formulations such as "the Son of God died" in 
conversations with Muslims/ 78 ) the pressure of Muslim criticism seems to have led 
some later Nestorian apologists to avoid them in inter-religious discussions. In 
al-Radd 'aid man gahada l-salb we find the precisely stated rule that "Christ" is the 
joint subject for the nature (gawhar) of God and the nature of man, and that "Christ" 

73. Syriac text in MINGANA, "Apology" (1928) 113/2/18-114/1/4. Cf. PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 
35* (#183-85). 

74. The Arabic translation of this text (longer recension) speaks of Christ's human tabi'ah ("nature") 
and divine uqnum ("hypostasis"), but these technical terms are absent in the original Syriac. See 
PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), #183-85. 

On the comparison of Christ's body to the royal purple, which is by no means new with 
Timothy, see BROCK, "Metaphor" (1982), 18. 

75. Or, as noted two paragraphs back: the human nature of God the Word died. 

76. Ed. and FT: H. CHEIKHO, Dialectique (1983). 

77. Ibid., 325-26 (#280-89) [FT 265-67]. 

78. Recall that 'Ammar al-Basri also used this formulation; see p. 236 above. 


was killed "in his humanity" (bi-ndsutihi) but not "in his divinity" (bi-lahutihi). {19) This 
corresponds to the rule stated later by the great Nestorian apologist Iliyya (d. 1046), 
metropolitan of Nisibis,< 80 > according to whom "Christ" is the term for the union 
between "the Lord" (who is the subject of the divine attributes and activities) and 
"Jesus" (who is the subject of the human attributes and activities). For apologetic 
purposes, at least, Iliyya is prepared to insist on a sharp distinction between the three 
terms even in the phrase "one Lord Jesus Christ" in the Nicene creed: while "Christ" 
is the common subject of all that is said in the creed's second article, the contents of 
that article are properly to be sorted between "the Lord" on the one hand and "Jesus" 
on the other/ 81 ) 

This particular example takes us more than a century beyond our period of 
study, but is at least indicative of the direction of Nestorian apologetics, the 
practitioners of which firmly rejected theopaschite formulations and found in the 
lahutlndsut, Word/flesh, and even "Lord'V'Jesus" distinctions useful apologetic tools for 
explaining to Muslim questioners how God remains essentially immune from that 
which befalls Jesus. 

2. Melkites 

Our Arabic Melkite sources provide a range of apologetic devices and 
comment thereon that spans the Antiochene-Alexandrian spectrum. The Alexandrian 
end is represented early on by the great Theodore Abu Qurrah. While his affirmation 
"the eternal Son, begotten from the Father before the ages, died for us, not in his 
divine nature but in his human nature"< 82 ) is carefully formulated over against anyone 
who would say that God died in His divine nature/ 83 ) he does not in general resort to 
analogies such as those of the catholicos Timothy in order to qualify what he means 
by "the eternal Son . . . died." For Abu Qurrah, the death of Christ is always the 
death of one who is truly God, since otherwise there is no salvation/ 84 ) 

79. See below, pp. 299-300 (#3). 

80. In Iliyya's first maglis with the Muslim wazlr Abu 1-Qasim al-Husayn b. 'All al-Magribi, ed. and 
FT: SAMIR, "Entretien" (1979). 

81. Ibid., 110-13 (#216-221). A comment made some years ago by Van Roey is apposite here: "It has 
frequently seemed to us, in the course of our reading of the Nestorian apologists, that the Muslim 
polemic sometimes induced them to reinforce the duality of the hypostases which they admit in 
Christ"; VAN ROEY, Nonnus (1948), 58, note 138. 

82. a^A> J i^tyl a^A> J *i ill* jybjjl JJ yVl Ja J^J^JI JjH\ 5 1, in "On 
the Death of Christ," BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 59/3-4. 

83. « :«.. .I* ^ji oL> 4il jr, ibid., 56/12. Abu Qurrah accused the Jacobites of saying this. 

84. See above, pp. 226-28. An analogy that Abu Qurrah did use over against non-Chalcedonian 
Christians is that of sight and hearing in a single person: sight is of the eye and not the ear, and 
hearing is of the ear and not the eye, but both are to be attributed to the one qunum 
("hypostasis") or person. See his brief "Confession," DICK, "Ecrits" (1959) 59/12-13 [FT 621 


Other Melkite apologists, however, made free use of analogies in order to 
blunt Muslim charges of nonsense and blasphemy. Ibrahim al-Tabaranl, attempting to 
illustrate how the Word of God might dwell in Jesus without suffering pain and 
death, gives the analogy of the angel who remains with each human individual as 
long as he or she lives without being affected by any affliction suffered by that 
individual - not even that of being shut in a pot and boiled in oil/ 85 ' And to show 
that the Word was unaffected when Christ was pierced by lance and nails, Ibrahim 
offers the analogy of a camel afflicted by the sun: one may butcher and dismember 
the animal without in any way affecting the sun that continues to shine on it/ 86 ) 
Similar sun-analogies are to be found elsewhere, for example in "On the Sufferings of 
Our Lord Christ," where we read of the house which may be destroyed without 
affecting the sun that shines on it and fills it with light/ 87 ) A bit later in the same 
text, the author presents the analogy of a church in which are found the Book of the 
Lord, His Angel, and the Body of Christ upon the altar. An "ignorant man" may beat 
on the wall of the church, spit on it, and insult it, but the holy things inside the 
church do not suffer any harm/ 88 ) 

The apologetic utility of the above analogies is immediately obvious: they 
provided a simple way for Christians to tell Muslims and those influenced by them 
that God in Himself is no more affected by Christ's sufferings than the angels, the 
sun, or the holy things of the analogies. Where the analogies fail, however, is in 
giving any sense of the unity of subject upon which orthodox christological doctrine 
insisted. There is no single subject in similes involving a man and his guardian angel, 
the sun and that upon which it shines, or a church's wall and its contents. Instead, 
like the Nestorian Timothy's analogies of the king and the royal purple, the water and 
the vessel, or the light and the mirror, everything depends on distinguishing between 
two logical subjects, one of which indignity and death or destruction may be 
predicated, another which remains untouched. Whatever the ad hoc utility of such 
analogies in debate - and no doubt it was considerable - taken alone they imply an 
extreme Nestorian christology/ 89 ) 

A more theologically sophisticated attempt to explain the Christian confession 
of the death of the Son of God is to be found in al-Burhan of Bishop Peter of Bayt 
Ra's. Concerning the passion of Christ, Peter wrote/ 90 ) 

85. MARCUZZO, Dialogue (1986), #332-49. 

86. Ibid., #350-53. 

87. Sinai ar. 553, f. 31 rv . A sun/house analogy for the Incarnation may also be found in Book I of 
the Burhdn of Bishop Peter of Bayt Ra's: CACHIA, Demonstration (1960-61), I, 70 (#112). 

88. Sinai ar. 553, ff. 37 v -38 r . 

89. It may be noted that John of Damascus used the example of the sun shining upon a tree being 
chopped down in order to illustrate the impassibility of the Word's divine nature, but immediately 
went on to emphasize that such examples are merely examples, and are never perfect. De fide 
orthodoxa 111,26 (KOTTER, Expositio (1973), 169). 

90. CACHIA (1960-61), I, 111 (#191), and see the preceding and following paragraphs. 


i4Jjj*% LjjJI a ».«>-.JI ^JLti ^aj 

.c-^JUaJI ja } ^-aj^ (_^>*-" <^vj u^J^I JjJjj 

.<U J^Uj £ j>tj 4-JL>- jA 

io.U~>- jl JJ talj! j~>- ajj— Li L/ *ii ii^J jAj 

jaV OjOjL 

^-Ul L^ISLa Ulil ^ -Li ^aV o jUij cJLtJI ^ jJI ^ ^ li ^Jlll ^aj 

(1) Ed. (although the correct reading is indicated in a note). 

1 It is he whose hands and feet were nailed to the cross in his humanity — 
and it is he who darkened the sun throughout the world in his divinity, and shook the 
earth and raised the dead from their graves while he was on the cross. 

2 It is he whose side was pierced and wounded in his humanity — and it is he 
who by the power of his divinity relinquished the soul of his humanity at the time he 
desired, before his body was pierced, since he lays down the soul of his humanity if 
he wishes, and takes it up again if he wishes [cf. John 10:18]. 

3 It is he who died in his humanity, which bore death through the separation 
of its created soul from its created body — and it is he who rose on the third day by 
the power of his divinity to raise its human temple. 

In this passage the unity of subject is vigorously asserted by the repeatedly intoned 
huwa -lladi, "it is he who." But just as constantly intoned are the modifiers 
bi-ndsutihi ("in his humanity") and bi-(quwwat) lahutihl ("in his divinity" or "by the 
power of his divinity"). Peter matches divine and human attributes of Jesus Christ in 
the manner of the paradox rhetoric of the apostolic fathers, but carefully segregates 
the ones from the others by the use of the lahutlnasut distinction. As with the 
Nestorians, the lahutlnasut distinction here operates as an apologetic device offering 
an appearance, at least, of an explanation why the paradox christology does not 
necessarily imply the attribution of death to divinity. 

3. Jacobites 

For Jacobite apologists writing in Arabic, the use of the lahutlnasut distinction 
to discuss the death of Christ -- which in Jacobite texts is regularly referred to as the 


death of Godw - usually took, the form of a dialectical argument hinging on the 
legitimacy of predicating of a whole that which is true of its parts. For example, in 
his treatise "On the Incarnation" Abu Ra'itah argues as follows:* 92 ) the death of God 
of which Christians speak is not like a human death. God dies and is killed "in the 
body" (bi-l-gasad), that is, "from the standpoint of the body" (min gihat al-gasad), and 
not "from the standpoint of his divinity" (min gihat lahutihi). Even though the 
divinity is above death and change, the noun "death" may be predicated of the 
incarnate one as a whole because of the union. 

Abu Ra'itah illustatrates his approach with the examples of the man who is 
"blind" -- in his eyes, but not in his heart -- or the man who is cloven-headed 
(masgitg) - in his head of course, not in his hand. So it is with God:* 93 ) 

(1) Ed. j^JUl. (2) Ed. U^Jl (but corrected in notes). 

The Merciful One was killed and died in the body because of our pains, for our rescue 
and salvation. [This is] like a "blind" or a "cloven-headed" person, each of whom is 
described as the object of [the affliction] in one of his parts, the noun "blindness" or 
"cloven-headedness" being predicated of the person in his entirety. 

Eustathius makes precisely the same points, giving the example of the man who is 
"blind" in his eyes but "clearsighted" (basir) in his heart/ 94 ) A century later this 
dialectic of the whole and its parts would be Yahya b. 'AdT's chief weapon for 
responding to al-Warraq's refutation of christological doctrine.* 95 ) 

In their defence of the paradox christology, arabophone Jacobite apologists 
such as Abu Ra'itah and Eustathius could and did use the favorite analogy of 
"Monophysite" christologians, which had already been used in Jacobite conversation 
with Muslims by John of Litarba: the mortal body and immortal soul of the one 
human person.* 96 ) Abu Ra'itah expresses caution about its use: it is merely "an 

9L See above, p. 236. 

92. GRAF, Abu Ra'ita (1951), 39-40 (#15). 

93. Ibid., 40/8-10. 

94. See Mingana chr. ar. 52, f. 157 rv . 

95. See below, p. 257. 

96. John: in his brief Syriac apology, SUERMANN, "Johannan" (1988-89) and "Controverse" (1989), 171. 
Abu Ra'itah: in "The Apology for the Christian Religion," GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 151 (#22). 
Eustathius: in the Kitab Ustdt, Mingana chr. ar. 52, ff. 155 v -156 r . 


analogy, in some respects, to that for which there is neither analogy nor example.''^ 97 ) 
And yet, whatever weaknesses in the analogy Melkite or Muslim polemicists might 
have found, in comparison with the Nestorian and Melkite analogies we have 
encountered the body/soul analogy has the virtue of illustrating the oneness of Christ 
who dies according to one aspect, yet is undying in another. 

B. Muslim Refutations 

In a hadith report that circulated in Kufah in the mid-eighth century it is 
stated that Christ's followers split into three groups: the Jacobites, who said "God 
(Allah) was among us"; the Nestorians, who said "The Son of God (ibn Allah) was 
among us"; and the Muslims, who said "A servant and apostle of God ('abd Allah 
wa-rasuluhu) was among us."< 98 ) The hadith report is an early witness to Muslim 
awareness of Christian divisions, at least that between Jacobites and Nestorians. 
Indeed, for many early Muslim materials of 'Iraqi provenance Christian divisions are 
seen as two-fold, largely because the Melkite presence there was not very pronounced. 
Even a writer such as 'All al-Tabarl, himself a former Christian, could for purposes of 
refutation treat Nestorians and Melkites together as "those who speak of indwelling 
and union."(") In the works of two of 'All's Muslim contemporaries, however, we 
find evidence of careful inquiry into the distinctive beliefs of Jacobites, Nestorians, 
and Melkites. al-Qasim b. Ibrahim's non-polemical description of the beliefs of the 
three confessions, published many years ago by Di Matteo/ 100 ) is well known to 
scholars, while Abu 'Isa al-Warraq's even more detailed description has just recently 
been published/ 101 ) And from a somewhat later period we have a description of 
Christian sects by the heresiographer al-Nasi' al-Akbar Abu l-'Abbas 'Abd Allah 
b. Muhammad al-AnbarU 102 ) 

In his refutation of the Christians, al-Qasim concentrated on the notion that 
God could have a Son. Both Abu 'Isa and 'Abd Allah, on the other hand, devote 
considerable space to Christian claims concerning the crucifixion of Christ. It is to 
their refutations that we now turn. 

97. Ji. Y, <d V U »UjVl J^i ^ ^-U . . .; GRAF, Abu Rd'ita (1951), 151/17-18. 

98. TABARl, Tafslr (1954-57), XXVIII, 92 (on al-Gum'ah (61):14), discussed above at pp. 104 (note 41), 

99. ^uJ^lj (JjJ^Jlj) i^Tl—JL: JU" jj., in al-Radd •old l-Nasara, KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" (1959), 
131/13, 22-23. 

100. DI MATTEO, "Confutazione" (1921-22), 316/10-317/8 [IT 346-47]. 

101. PLATTI, "Doctrine" (1991), 23-27 [FT 9-14]. 

102. VAN ESS, Hdresiographie (1971), 76*-87* (#17-51). The Nestorian-colored christology of what 'Abd 
Allah calls "the generality" of Christians is described at #18-19, Melkite christology at #31, and 
Jacobite christology at #36. 


1. The refutation of Abu 'Isa al-Warraq 

(a) Exploring Christian distinctions, exploiting Christian quarrels 

In Abu 'Isa al-Warraq's Kitab al-radd 'aid l-firaq al-talat min al-Nasara ("The 
Book of the Refutation of the Three Sects of Christians") we find a polemic against 
the Christian confession of the crucifixion, death, and burial of Christ that is unique, 
among ninth-century texts in our possession, in its length and sophistication. This 
sophistication derives, first of all, from Abu 'Isa's knowledge of the christological 
formulations of the different Christian communities and of their disagreements among 
themselves. We may get a sense of the extent of this knowledge from the paragraph 
on Christian claims concerning the death of Christ with which he concludes his 
introductory summary of Christian beliefs 03 ) 

These three sects [all] claim that Christ was crucified and killed, but differ, with 
respect to the crucifixion and killing, as to whom they in fact (bi-l-haqiqah) befell, and 
who in fact was the one crucified. 

The Nestorians claim that Christ was crucified from the standpoint of his 
humanity, not of his divinity (min gihat nasutihi, la min lahutihi), and that the 
crucifixion and killing only befell the human born from Mary to the exclusion of God 
(al-ilah), because killing and crucifixion and suffering do not reach God .... 

Many of the Melkites claim that the crucifixion and killing befell Christ in his 
entirety (bi-kamalihi) in that body, Christ in his entirety being the divinity and the 
humanity. And many of them say that Christ has two natures (du l-gawharayn) of 
which one is the divinity and the other the humanity, but not as the Nestorians say, 
that he was only crucified from the standpoint of his humanity. The Melkites say: if 
Christ's humanity was a universal humanity (nasul kulli) without a hypostasis (uqnum) 
or a person (sahs), it is not possible to isolate it in the crucifixion or in any other 
event, . . . which necessitates that the killing and crucifixion only befell Christ in his 

And they say: if the divinity were isolated from the humanity and not united 
with it, then killing and crucifixion would not be possible for the divinity, nor could 
the hands of creatures grasp it. 

And many of them claim that crucifixion, death, and suffering — all of that — 
only reached God (al-ilah) ... in his economy (bi-l-tadbir), not by sense or by direct 

Most of the Jacobites claim that the crucifixion and killing befell Christ who is 
one nature from two natures. They say: if the crucifixion and killing only befell one 
of the natures, then the incarnation would be void and the union destroyed, and the 
crucifixion and killing would only befall that which was not Christ, because each of 
the two natures in isolation is not Christ. 

In spite of this they say, "God (al-ilah) was crucified for our sake, that is, in 
order to save us." . . . They do not by this mean to allow that crucifixion and killing 
befall the divinity, if it were in isolation and not united [with the humanity], but, in 
their view, that is only possible for it because of its union with the humanity .... 

103. PLATTI, "Doctrine" (1991), 26-27 (#15) [FT 13-14]. 


Abu 'Isa's description is not entirely accurate: as has already been pointed out, 
Melkites and Jacobites as well as Nestorians did say that Christ was crucified and died 
bi- or min gihat nasutihi (in or from the standpoint of his humanity), and not bi- o r 
min gihat lahutihi (in or from the standpoint of his divinity). All the same, his 
description reflects considerable exposure to the christological terminologies and 
grammars of the three Christian communions, as well as to their quarrels among 

It is in the second part of his refutation (i.e., his refutation of the doctrine of 
the Incarnation) that Abu 'Isa turns his attention to the crucifixion, death, and burial 
of Christ, taking on each community in turn. He concludes that the Nestorians' strict 
distinction of two gawhars in Christ does not succeed in protecting the eternal 
gawhar from the death undergone by "Christ," who is the eternal and the temporal 
gawhar together/ 104 ' As for the Melkites, their (neo-Chalcedonian) confession of 
Christ's one divine hypostasis results in the predication of birth, crucifixion, death, and 
burial to that hypostasis -- that is, to that which is divines 105 ^ And as for the 
Jacobites, the one gawhar of which they speak is not God and man, but neitherS 10 ® 
In all of this there is an extent to which Abu 'Isa appears to be exploiting the 
Christians' own intra-communal debate. His critique of the Nestorians comes directly 
from his report of Jacobite doctrine, reproduced above, while his critique of the 
Jacobites echoes, for example, Theodore Abu Qurrah's polemic against the Severan 
understanding of Christ's one nature as "composite.'^ 1 07 > Furthermore, we note that his 
judgements on the insufficiency of Nestorian and Melkite christological distinctions to 
"protect" Christ's divinity from the vicissitudes of his humanity meet with the 
approval of the Jacobite Yahya b. 'Adi (thanks to whose refutation al-Warraq's text is 
preserved)/ 108 ) 

(b) Basic issues 

Abu 'Isa's project is far more, however, than a turning of the Christians' own 
weapons against each other in the conviction that no one will emerge from the battle 
with an unrefuted argument. He brings to the debate his own convictions, which 

104. PLATTI, Incarnation (1987), 27-28 (#21). 

105. Ibid., 28-29 (#22). Abu 'Isa attacks other Melkite christological concepts as well. For him, one 
whose temporal nature is that of al-insan al-kulll ("universal humanity") may not be seen or 
grasped — or crucified, killed, and buried; ibid., 79 (#69). Also, the addition of bi-l-tadbir ("in his 
economy") to the confession that "God suffered" is, for Abu 'isa, a terminological avoidance tactic; 
ibid., 75-78 (#68). 

106. Ibid., 23 (#23). 

107. See, for example, "On the Death of Christ," BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 58/11-12: J-**.* 
ul_Ji jjb Ji V tdJLLll £_* Lujlj 4Jbo'j i^JjVl ^Jl l^^^-J ("and [Severus] 
made Christ other than the Eternal Son, and added him as a fourth [person of the Trinity], 
neither god nor man, to be worshipped with the third"). 

108. PLATTI, Incarnation (1987), 28-29 (#21-22). 


stripped of their complex dialectical embellishments are in fact very simple. The 
bottom line is that one may not predicate death of divinity — and Abu 'Isa's 
arguments are designed to demonstrate that the Christians do just that. Fundamental 
for him is the conviction that we have already encountered in the work of 'AIT 
al-Tabari, which for convenience we might call the "single predication rule": 
specifically divine and specifically human attributes may not be predicated 
simultaneously of one and the same subject. In describing Christ - or anyone else - 
there is a strict either/or. And thus Abu isa may ask: Is the crucified, dead, and 
buried Christ alive or deadl^ 09 ~> Is he God or nof>S n ^ As we noted before, this 
"single predication rule" is the precise denial of the Christian "paradox christology," 
for which it is perfectly legitimate to say that Christ is alive and dead, or that he is 
Creator and creature. 

There is a perfect match between the either/or of the "single predication rule" 
and the dialectical tool of the qismah or taqsim or dilemma-question/ 111 ) and it is a 
characteristic of Abu 'Isa's text that with unrelenting energy and ingenuity he poses 
one dilemma-question after another, seeking to drive any Christian opponent into a 
corner. While he himself admits that there is a certain artificiality in his procedure, 
as it leads him to postulate and refute doctrines that no one actually confesses, he 
explains that this is necessary in order to exhaust all the possibilities, so that "no one 
who holds to any one of [these Christian doctrines] will be able to do so (when the 
dialectic contained in this chapter presses upon him) without encountering the truth 
that prohibits him from holding to it."( 112 > It is in this implacable fashion that he 
addresses issues such as the sense of the confession "God died" (al-ilah mat): if "God 
died," is He now dead or alive? If alive, did He raise himself, or did someone else? 
If someone else, was this one not a god, or a god? If a god, do you worship this one 
or the one who died? If the latter, does a dead god merit worship or not?( 113 > 
Through such a numbing barrage of dilemma-questions, Abu 'Isa demonstrates - to 
his own satisfaction, at least - the incoherence of the christological doctrine of all the 
Christian communities. 

A corollary of the "single predication rule" is what we might call (borrowing a 
term from arithmetic) the "distributive rule" of christological predication: if "Christ" 
is his divinity {lahut) and his humanity (nasut) together, then what is predicated of 
"Christ" must be predicated of both the lahut and the nasut. Therefore, to predicate 
crucifixion, death, and burial to Christ is necessarily to predicate these of both his 

109. For example, ibid., 32, 35 (#27-28, to all the communities). 

110. For example, ibid., 35-36 (#29-31, to the Nestorians). 

111. On this device in the kalam, see VAN ESS, "Structure" (1970), especially 40-41. 

112. ^5^1 Lf^i LJj C-aiJl ai^J £ j-iJlj ^^SJ\ ^ +4 . 1 e } »LajU— j£J j l|»__»LLJl »Jjk ji£\-> I jljJLs jl } 

JL».j Si . >LJl iJL* ^!>l£jl <t-±e- JLi ^ji-i lf^-» » l _ r i-J jr-f^ J^*^ S' t~ij' j .4_^>-_jJl aX» J> i 

.^iL: je. oJjl, \j> J»wJl; PLATTI, Incarnation (1987), 66 (#56). 

113. Ibid., 40-42 (#36). 


humanity and his divinityS ui) This rule is in obvious conflict with the Christian 
whole/parts dialectic, according to which one may predicate of Christ (and, for 
Jacobites, of "God") that which is predicated of him in one part or aspect, but not in 
another part or aspect 

A perusal of the oldest Christian reaction to Abu 'Isa's arguments in our 
possession, that of Yahya b. 'Adi in whose refutation these arguments are preserved, is 
useful for making clear how different are the theological grammars used by a Muslim 
and a Christian, each of whom may be described as a mutakallimS n5 '> Yahya finds 
many of Abu 'isa's either/or dilemmas inadequate, sometimes describing them with 
the term qismah naqisah, that is, a qismah or taqsim that fails to take all possibilities 
into account/ 1 16 > The neglected possibilities are provided through the dialectic of the 
whole and its parts, which Yahya constantly invokes as as defence against and critique 
of Abu 'Isa's arguments/ 117 > What the refutation of Abu 'isa and its refutation by 
Yahya leave us with is a sense of the incompatibility of the grammars grown up in 
the service of the Qur'an's and the Bible's ways of speaking about God and His 
dealings with human beings. The "single predication rule" and its corollary 
"distributive rule" of christological predication stand over against the "paradox 
christology" and the whole/parts dialectic used in its defence. At this level of debate 
there is little progress towards mutual understanding, because to a great extent the 
debaters are speaking different languages. 

2. The refutation of al-Nasi' al-Akbar 

In his work of heresiography, the Kitdb al-awsat, al-Nasi' al-Akbar Abu 
l-'Abbas 'Abd Allah b. Muhammad al-Anbari gives brief, non-polemical descriptions of 
Nestorian, Melkite, and Jacobite christology. He notes that the Nestorians and 
Melkites divide (qassama) their speech with respect to the crucifixion and death of 
Christ, that is, that they distinguish between the humanity that dies and the divinity 
that does not die/ 118 ) whereas the Jacobites, while in general agreement with other 
Christians, openly declare (in the interpolated Trisagion hymn) that "the Holy One 
who does not die was crucified in our stead."* 1 19 > 

114. This is used at, for example, ibid., 27-28 (#21, to Nestorians), 35 (#28, to all three communities), 
37-40 (#32-35, to all three communities), 71 (#63, to Melkites). 

115. Yahya considered himself first and foremost a philosopher, but others saw him, with good reason, 
as a Christian mutakallim. See STROUSMA, Tradition" (1991), 281-85. 

116. PLATTI, Incarnation (1987), 73 (#65), 161-62 (#154). 

117. Ibid., 28/11 (#21), 30/4-5 (#23), 33/19-20 (#27), 37/9-10 (#32), 38/11 (#33), 39/9-10 (#34), 40/6-7 
(#35), 42/17-18 (#36), 72/4-5 (#63), 73/17 (#65), 78/19 (#68). 

118. VAN ESS, Haresiographie (1971), 77* (#19), 79* (#31). 

119. LJx i y>> "V tjaJl ^-jJuJI <jl J>ilL; \+~jJJu ,j £-^j~<>\ ibid., 80* (#36). 


'Abd Allah goes on to devote three brief but lucid paragraphs to a refutation 
of Christian claims concerning the death of the one confessed as God.< 12 °) While the 
three paragraphs may be taken as very roughly applying to the Jacobites, the 
Melkites, and the Nestorians respectively, they are not three separate bits of ad hoc 
polemic but rather a single coherent argument that all these Christians use language 
that is either meaningless or blasphemous. 'Abd Allah begins his refutation as 
follows:" 2 ') 

:« jijj vJu^J 0L.1) (! I jJU lip J>-) «£$jUI» jt I j^e-j 3 1 

<u Jtu L. iDi ja aJLp JLi £sjUI o\ ,JLp J jill IJLjj I ^Jjb J ji 2 
^ di^^. ^Ai ciUi Ijla olj 3 IJ^UI *>-j !*i tlUi Ji. 

liltS V ^Jj^tj ' ^-sj OL» 5t 


1 [As for] those who claim that "the Creator" — may He be exalted above what 
they say! — "died and was crucified and buried": 2 if they do not intend by this 
statement that those things reached the Creator that reach another of whom the like of 
that is [said], then there is no reason for making the statement! 3 And if they d o 
intend that, it is undoubtedly true that one who dies falls into nothingness and 
oblivion, and that is inconceivable for the Eternal One! 

'Abd Allah begins with the baldest of Christian theopaschite formulations, making a 
judgment that is the basis for his entire argument: either the intended meaning of 
"the Creator died" is something other than what is said, in which case the formulation 
is gratuitious and best dispensed with, or the formulation is a blasphemous and 
nonsensical attribution of death to the Divinity. In what follows, he will attempt to 
show that the christological distinctions made by Christians do nothing to blunt the 
force of this judgment/ 122 ) 

jl «J JL. *>l» 5 <L$->t-j)) tjLii tJjiJI » [^^iis— I 4 

120. Ibid., 83*-84* (#45-47). 

121. Ibid., 83* (#45). 

122. Ibid., 84* (#46). 

Van Ess points out that 'Abd Allah's procedure here is the common one of dealing with the 
most readily refutable Jacobite ("Monophysite") teaching first, and then going on to to show that 
Melkite and Nestorian distinctions are insufficient to escape the judgment passed on the Jacobites; 
ibid., 89. We find the same procedure in 'All al-Tabari's al-Radd 'ala l-Nasara, for example at 
KHALIFE/KUTSCH, "Radd" (1959), 131/12-133/6. 


<L>V t i^j>- Ji' jj> Ojaj (j-JLi tOjAJ l» ^ . ;»> ji ^JLmJ jjj 6 !oL» 

. Jliij ^yJI if>«JI 0_jaj 

10 .o^j Oj^JI ^ o j£ JU (j-JLi loss* Jj OL» t-Lul* toU 

(1) I have translated this as equivalent to 


4 And [as for] the one who qualifies the statement ["the Creator died and was 
crucified and buried"], saying "from the standpoint of His humanity" (bi-gihat nasutihi) 
5 he necessarily means by this statement that the Creator Himself died from a certain 
standpoint; but it does not matter whether that standpoint is the standpoint of His 
humanity, or other than the standpoint of His humanity, if it was He Himself who 
died! 6 For we know that everything that dies does not die from every standpoint, 
because it does not die in such a way that its color fades or that its body disappears. 
7 According to many aspects (wuguh) it does not die. It only dies from the 
standpoint of that of which it is deprived. 

8 Therefore, making qualifications [on the basis of] the [different] standpoints 
achieves nothing if an aspect did die, because that does not do away with the fact that 
He indeed died. 9 Or perhaps the statement "the Creator died" does not mean that He 
died, but something else; but then there is no reason for mentioning Him in [the 
context of] death. 10 Nothing is clearer than this. 

'Abd Allah here takes on the whole/parts dialectic as applied to the death of God. 
The force of his critique may be appreciated by recalling Abu Ra'itah's and 
Eustathius' attempts to explain "God died" with the example of the man who is blind 
in his eyes, not in his heart.* 1 23) In response to such attempts, 'Abd Allah would be 
quick to point out that, whatever qualifications be made, the man is blind] If such 
logic is to be applied to God, then "God died in his humanity, not in his divinity" 
does not change the fact that God diedl And therefore the qualifications made by 
Christians do not affect 'Abd Allah's judgment that the expression "God died" is either 
gratuitous or blasphemous. 

The point of the Christian apologists, of course, was that just as the man's 
heart was not blind, so Christ's divinity did not suffer death. Their point was 
muddied, however, by their use of divine titles for Christ: "Christ died, from the 
standpoint of his human nature" is more straightforwardly analogous to "the man is 
blind, from the standpoint of his eyes" than is the formulation "God died." But 

123. See above, pp. 251-53. 


'Abd Allah will not allow Christians to get off his hook even in this way:* 124 * 

I j . «J L iLJ o\j*j*r Qj I >ll» 3 11 

l*Li jl iOj-JI Ufd»J J I JUL! I t)u>> U4J1 v^r^! ^ jJ 

Jl lilT Lli jlj tto^-lj lilT 

(1) Perhaps 'Abd Allah lost track of the structure of his sentence, jii here would 
mark the following clause as the gawdb al-sart (apodosis). 


11 And those who say that Christ is two natures and two hypostases so as to 
divide their speech, saying, "He died from the standpoint of his humanity, but did not 
die from the standpoint of his divinity," do not through this procedure evade the 
[negative judgments] that apply to their co-religionists. 12 This is because if Christ 
is Creator and servant together, then regardless of whether the two are two natures or 
are synthesized into one nature, if it is said "Christ died," that [understanding of Christ] 
requires that both together are what death befalls, whether they wished them to be 
"one" or to be "two." 

According to 'Abd Allah, replacing "God died" by "Christ died" does not save the 
Christian case, because the attribution of death to Christ implies the attribution of 
death to his divinity, whether this is conceived (in Nestorian fashion) as a separate 
nature and hypostasis or (in Severan fashion) as a component of one synthesized 
nature. Thus, at the end of the argument, we have the same "distributive rule" of 
christological predication that we found in Abu 'Isa al-Warraq. In sum, 'Abd Allah's 
verdict on the Christian doctrine of the death of one confessed as God is clear: it is 
either meaningless or blasphemous. The distinctions and dialectics used in its defence 
amount to no more than evasions. 

III. Christian Assertion and Self -Definition 

In the previous section we examined the various ways in which Christians, 
drawing upon christological terminology and grammar and apologetic tactics forged in 
debate with one another, attempted to explain to Muslims their confession of the 
death of one confessed as Lord and God. These attempts at explanation were, for the 

124. VAN ESS, Haresiographie (1971), 84* (#47). 


most part, conciliatory in tone. Through careful distinctions, dialectical devices, and 
readily comprehensible analogies they attempted to some extent to blunt the 
scandalous paradoxes of Christian speech, in order to show that these were not 
really quite as scandalous as might seem at first hearing. 

Alongside these attempts at explanation, however, we find another moment 
and another mood: that of assertion, of letting the paradoxes of faith stand regardless 
of the scandal they might cause. In the present section we shall first present a sample 
of such "unapologetic apologetics," and a warning about the theological dangers 
involved in apologetics of the normal sort. This will be followed by a discussion of 
how unembarrassed confession of the death of the one confessed as God served the 
sociological function of demarcating the boundaries of the Christian community 
within the Dar al-lslam. Finally, we shall look at the way in which the major 
arabophone apologists strove to show how the very scandal of faith in the crucified 
Son of God could be - paradoxically! - a token of its truth. 

A. Asserting the Mystery 

L In "The Book of Eustathius" {Kitab Ustat) 

A good example of "unapologetic" - some might say "naive" - apologetics 
concerning the death of God the Son is the work of the Jacobite monk Eustathius, 
known simply as the Kitab Ustat. This work responds to the letter of a Muslim who 
had attempted to dissuade Christians from "the worship of a god who was born and 
nursed, hungered and thirsted, tired, fled, feared, was beaten and crucified, called for 
help, died and was buried."< 125 > We have already seen that Eustathius uses some of the 
explanatory devices discussed above/ 126 ) but on the whole his concern is less 
explanation than reassertion of the mystery of Christ as he is described in the Bible. 
Christ, while performing human actions, also surpassed human capacities/ 127 ^ 

Aja lit cpjfcl jj\ jl JJ ^ 01 J ji\ [f. 146 v ] 
jJLp LjI i y* jL-JI v_jJl 4_*_-u ^_ r Jli I (^JUI _j-Aj — ^^-T ^ <*-> 2 

j-J^; Mingana chr. ar. 52, f. 146 r . 

126. See above, pp. 251-53. 

127. Mingana chr. ar. 52, ff. 146 r -147 v . 


4ii5LfJI oL*JI ^JUI ykj - Lf i*JI Ji 4 

. 1 a./3 II 

.4jl>. Lpjj tpjj>- _^>-j ^^U ^ jj/l ^^JLp I ^kJLJ c « yk Lit ») 

.<uJL; j-jj Jul jl jjj L»_j to ^ j^j) tl jlla.».ll Ljjl [f. 147 r ] 

.Ai.JLiJ ^0*>UI B) £>*l>-j 
^jji jii- ^JJI — j^-JI ^ t I £-» <-JU»j 8 

.4~»Ji ii lb C-JJhi j^JI 4ii?L>JI 

jjbj — jLajjH oJL*Li I* ^jIp (j-iUJI ^- : -^->- 'Ojaj 

.plii (4} t((^i» 

C^>%zJu\ jJI yfcj — ^jj ^Ji ^ JI ^yA^S j-Jj 10 

jl U-^J" 1 ^JUI v^jL jt-*>-J Oli' J* ^e-j j^J jt UJj 11 

oiUJI cljIj iUj^fl L^I ^JUI ^ - -U jl~ ^ (6)r ^ 

lL* ilJi JlL* j.jiS' yfc tULi-^j oi ^sJI Ljjo il aJL^i 12 

. jUiVI ^LL J^Lj ll. [f. 147 v ] t jU^VI (8) h^ a ^ Jj 

(1) MS (2) MS ilbr. (3) MS jUl. (4) MS (5) MS 

(6) MS sic. Better would be simply (7) MS ( , f : :f <. (8) MS l^-. 


1 The time of his birth and the number of his years were known — but it is 
he who said, "Truly, truly I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am." [John 8:58] 

2 And again, he hungered — but it is he who satisfied nine thousand men, 
apart from the women and children, with twelve loaves, and after they were satisfied 
gathered nineteen vessels of scraps. [Mark 6:32-44, 8:1-10 parr.] This is also something 
that surpasses [human] nature. 

3 And again, he thirsted — but it is he who gave the wedding party at Cana 
in Galilee surpassing wine to drink, after their wine had run out. [John 4:46-54] 

4 And again, he tired from walking — but it is he who walked upon the 
raging waters, and Simon "Cephas" walked with him. [Matthew 14:22-33] 


5 He tired from carrying his cross — but it is he who commanded the sick 
man who had remained upon his bed for thirty-eight years to take up his bed and 
walk, and immediately he took it up and left for his home, healthy. [John 5:2-9] 

6 He fled from those who sought him — but it is he who said to the soldiers 
of the chief priests, "I am he," and they fell upon their faces out of fear and terror of 
him. [John 183-6] 

7 He heard insults and was beaten — but it is he who said to the Devil, "Flee 
away from me Satan!" and he fled from him, unable to stand before him. And the 
angels came and ministered to him. [Matthew 4:10-11] 

8 He was crucified with two thieves, and was counted among criminals — but 
it is he who forgave the trespasses of the sinful woman who anointed his feet with 
perfume. [Luke 7:36-50] 

9 He died as all people die, as far as sight could bear witness — but it is he 
who revivified Lazarus and raised him from the dead after four days. And that was 
by his word "Arise!" and he arose. [John 1138-44] 

10 He was buried like all those who are buried — but it is he on whose 
account the graves were opened, and those who were the righteous dead came out of 
them and entered the Holy City. [Matthew 27:52-53] 

11 When he was buried and counted among those who were dead, the door of 
the tomb was sealed lest he decay [lit. "change"] after three days — but it is he who 
raised the son of the widow and the daughter of the leader in their [own] form, as 
though they had not died and their bodies had not decayed. [Luke 7:11-17, 8:40-56 parr.] 

12 All these occasions which we have described — and there are many [more] 
things like them which we have not mentioned for the sake of brevity — belong to 
that which surpasses the nature of the human being. 

When Eustathius turns to a detailed response to the Muslim's objection to 
Christians' "worship of a god who . . . died," once again he stresses the mystery of this 
death, according to the New Testament/ 128 ) 

128. Ibid., ff. 152 r -153 r . 


^>Jl ^I^Li! J* J>o U sli [f. 153 r ] ^>JI 

(1) MS Uji. (2) MS i^w. (3) MS (4) MS ^1. (5) MS jj>^J. (6) MS j^J. 

(7) MS ^i. 


1 Concerning his statement "[the worship of a god who] died," [know that] there 
are only three kinds of death: 

(a) according to the witness of sight, when the body is without breath or movement; 

(b) or [according to] the proper meaning [of "death"], which is the separation of the 
soul from the body; 

(c) or the death of sin, as when God (may he be ascribed strength and majesty!) said to 
Adam, "The day you eat of this tree you shall surely die" [Genesis 2:17]. 2 But Adam 
did not die that day, and did not die until the completion of his span of life. By that 
[saying] He specifically meant the death of sin, because he (Adam) had come to be 
within the bounds of one encompassed by death, as a result of his transgression against 
the commandment of his Lord. 

3 Let it be said to him: "In accordance with which of these three kinds [of 
death] did Christ die?" 

4 If he says, "He died according to the witness of sight," let it be said to him: 
"We have seen that, after his death, blood and water came out of his right side alone. 
And that is not something [characteristic] of a dead person, as far as intellects grasp the 

5 And if he says, "He died according to the proper meaning, that is, the 
separation of the soul from the body," let it be said to him: "And how can this be? 
We find that, when he came to be in the tomb, people were put in charge over him 
and guards were posted over him and the stone at the door of the tomb was sealed. 
Then an angel of the Lord came down and rolled away the stone and sat upon it, and 
from the intensity of fear and terror that entered the guards when they saw the angel 
of the Lord, those guards became like dead men. 6 After that the women came to 
perfume the tomb with incense, and the angel of the Lord said to them, 'Why do you 
seek the living among the dead? He is not here. Remember his words with you in 
Galilee, when he said that the Son of Man was going to be delivered into the hands of 
sinful people and crucified, and would rise on the third day.' And they remembered 
his words, and returned from the tomb. 7 And this, too, is not said of someone 
whose soul has separated from his body, as far as intellects grasp the matter!" 

8 And as for the death of sin, Christ said to the Jews, "Who among you is able 
to reproach me of sin?" [John 8:46] And Isaiah had previously said, "No sin was found 
in his mouth" [Isaiah 53:9]. 


This is a curious text, notably in its suggestion that Christ did not die in the 
sense of his soul being separated from his body - at least not in the normal human 
sense. This and the rest of Eustathius' presentation expose him to the charge that, on 
his own account, Christ did not die and the Qur'an's subbiha lahum is correct!^ 29 ) His 
point, however, is not to deny Christ's death, but to insist that this death is not to be 
explained by analogy with human deaths. Comparing the mystery of Christ's death to 
that of his birth, Eustathius insists: "He died in the way in which he willed to die, 
just as he was born as he willed to be born."( 13 °) "How he died cannot be grasped."* 131 ) 
"We do not define his death, just as we do not define his birth."* 132 ) Rather than 
attempt to give explanations that the mind can grasp, Eustathius reasserts the mystery 
of Christ's birth, life, and death as described in the New Testament, wonderfully 
fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament/ 133 ) 

2. In al-Gami' wuguh al-iman 

Probably a few years after the Jacobite Eustathius wrote his apology, the 
Melkite author of al-Gami' wugiih al-lman made an interesting protest against what 
he considered the abuse of the lahutlnasut distinction, both in his Chapter ICK 134 ) and 
in the twelfth wagh of his sharply polemical Chapter 14, entitled "On the Viewpoints 
that Exclude their Adherents from the Christian Community."* 135 ) The author argues 
that a sharp distinction between Christ's humanity and divinity and a careful sorting 
of attributes and activities between them -- a standard feature of much "explanatory" 
apologetic, especially among Nestorians and Melkites - is not strictly in accord with 
the Old Testament, the New Testament (including Jesus' own words), or the Fathers of 
the Church. Such sorting has only limited uses/ 136 ) 

^1 ilU* oCj-i-JL <upL~._> [f. 43 v ] 4il j^Jclj ^Uaxu j^j pJ^j 
*Ju*j j^j .OjAyyj * i>-l>JI i<d£jl ^l! fj£ Wja ^Js- 

i[sic] oJo-'\ ^Js- <u^ I y*-> jA ( U-fr^ol y>^> Lljj >«-H & y* y*- 
Ju-jJI J_- jI> JLSi (4, c r U>L:yfi JiJiir j^^JI Jb-1 J* 

(1) MS oLaVL (2) MS (3) MS U. (4) MS U^S ^JUl. 

129. Mingana chr. ar. 52, f. 155 r - v . For Eustathius's response, see above, pp. 137-38. 

130. jj^, j* .Li IS jJj IS io_^ o' »U Lw oL. Ji; Mingana chr. ar. 52, f. 153 v /7-8. 

131. oL. JlS tljJu V; ibid., f. 154 r /2-3. 

132. tz^j a^j y (oylxJ^ ibid., lines 12-13. 

133. On the importance of this last point for Eustathius, see above, pp. 123-24. 

134. BL or. 4950, ff. 42 r -46 v . 

135. il r ,\ J ^J\ Lj^U, £>j iyr} JjiJl; BL or. 4950, f. 76 r . Wagh 12 is found at ff. 81 v -83 v . 

136. BL or. 4950, f. 43 rv . 



And so we say "The human attributes and activities belong to the humanity, and 
the divine ones to the transcendent divinity" [for one of two reasons]: by way of 
instructing and teaching the person not thoroughly knowledgeable about God's economy 
and His ways among things human; or [by way of] rejecting anyone who would make 
need and pains attach to God the Word in His [divine] nature. Unless it is for one of 
the two reasons we have mentioned, whoever describes the the two natures of our Lord 
Christ with their characteristics [by describing] each nature by its characteristics atone 
has strayed from the path of the apostles and prophets. 

Later the author mentions that the urge to such sorting of attributes and activities 
between Christ's divinity and his humanity may come in conversation with "another 
person belonging to the Church, or with a stranger."^ 1 ') In other words, the author 
recognizes the ad hoc apologetic utility of such sorting in conversations with Muslims 
(as well as with Christians whose faith had been challenged by Islam), and accords this 
sorting a certain limited legitimacy. All the same, with numerous citations from the 
Bible and the Fathers^ 38 ) he makes it clear that such sorting is foreign to the spirit of 
biblical and patristic christology. Efforts to soften the scandalous effect of the 
"paradox christology," whether through the use of analogies such as those Nestorian 
and Melkite ones we examined earlier, or through rigorous sorting of Christ's 
activities between his nasut and his lahut, may be apologetically useful in 
conversations with people "not thoroughly knowledgeable about God's economy and 
His ways among things human." The author of al-Gami' would remind his readers, 
however, that they are not strictly faithful to the Church's story of those mysterious 
ways of God. 

B. Accomodation and Differentiation 

1. Pressures to conform 

During the first century of Muslim rule in what had been the Sassanian and 
eastern Byzantine empires, Christians, while expected to accomodate Muslim religious 
sensibilities in places where Christian and Muslim populations overlapped, did not 
experience a great deal of pressure to conform to a specifically Islamic ideology - in 
large part because that ideology itself was still in the making. As is well known, the 
earliest Muslim rulers did not encourage the conversion of non-Arabs to Islam; it was 
only under the "pious" Umayyad caliph 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'Aziz (717-20) that converts 
could be exempted from the gizyah (poll tax) levied on non-Muslims. Christian 
literature from the Umayyad period may see the rise of Islam as a punishment for sin 

137. -1 i_^Jl J*1 ^ BL 4950, ff. 81 v -82 r (from Chapter 14, wagh 12). 

138. Throughout Chapter 10 and Chapter 14, wagh 12. 


and/or an apocalyptic visitation/ 139 ) but there is little sense in this literature of Islam 
as a serious ideological challenge to the Church. St. John of Damascus, who was in a 
better position to know Muslims well than many of his Christian contemporaries, 
regarded Islam (from the point of view of its teaching) as merely one of the latest in 
a very long series of heresies to have arisen and troubled the Church. 

With the Abbasids' accession to power, however, pressures on Christians to 
accomodate themselves to various aspects of Islamic ideology increased. Most 
radically, conversion of Christians to Islam became an important feature of 
inter-religious dynamics at this time. It was the standard policy of the Abbasids to 
encourage conversion to Islam, both for ideological reasons and in order to redress 
what must have been perceived as an unacceptable demographic imbalance, with a 
Muslim minority ruling a Christian majority/ 14 °) Converts were therefore accepted as 
full members of the Islamic community, with all the rights of members of that 
community, including exemption from the payment of gizyah. Several genres of 
Islamic literature that took shape under the Abbasids, including the radd-literature, are 
to be seen at least in part as missionary in purpose, with the goal of weaning 
non-Muslims away from their now-surpassed faiths and inducting them into the 
developing Islamic construct of reality/ 141 ) 

This Abbasid policy appears to have been a success, to judge from the 
demographic evidence in our possession. Richard Bulliet's statistical analyses of 
personal names in Islamic biographical dictionaries suggests that the beginning of "the 
great surge of Islamicization" in Iraq (probably closely paralleled by Syria and 
Palestine) begins at about the time of the accession to power of Harun al-Rasid 
(786-809), and that within a century, over half of those who would eventually convert 
to Islam had done so/ 142 ' It comes as no surprise that it is precisely this century in 
which we see the rise of an Arabic Christian apologetic literature aimed at 
strengthening Christians' resistance to the temptation of conversion. 

We would quite naturally expect there to be a wide variety of motives among 
those Christians who converted to Islam, and indeed, the literary sources at our 
disposal reflect this. The author of al-Gami' wuguh al-iman was prepared to 
recognize the appeal of Islam's simplicity: "The language of this community [Islam] is 
a clear language, which ordinary people understand.'^ 143 ) Such clarity would not only 
have posed a greater temptation to Christians than the "repugnantly subtle language" 
of earlier heresies/ 144 ) but would prove attractive over against a Christianity struggling 
to find its voice in Islamicly "loaded" Arabic. But while some Christians may have 

139. See, for example, SUERMANN, "Christen" (1983) and Reaktion (1985); MARTINEZ, "Apocalyptic" 

140. See CHARFI, "Fonction" (1994), 46-47. 

141. Ibid., 46-49. 

142. BULLIET, Conversion (1979), 82. 

143. oUJl i+ijju y>Ui ^ oVl oJla ftff, BL or. 4950, f. 5 v /4-5. 

144. ^w- , jJi ^ ■ ibid., f. 5 v /4. 


converted quite purely out of conviction of the superior coherence of Islam, others 
undoubtedly did so with an eye to social advancement for themselves and their 
families. It is doubtful that such converts underwent any great change of attitude or 
ideology upon joining the Islamic community. Naturally enough, those concerned 
about the integrity of that community saw the influx of nominal, under-"catechized" 
converts as a danger, leading, for example, to the complaint of al-Gahiz: "Don't you 
see that the majority of those who were executed for heresy (zandaqah), of those 
who professed and made of a show of Islam, were those whose fathers and mothers 
were Christians?"* 145 ) Charfi has recently described one of the most important 
functions of the Islamic ra<i<i-literature of the Abbasid period as precisely that of 
integrating new converts into the faith, thereby "protecting Islam from 
contamination."* 146 ) 

If some Christians responded to pressures to conform to the governmentally 
sanctioned and culturally ascendant Islamic ideology by actual conversion to Islam, 
others responded with doctrinal accomodation while remaining Christian, at least in 
name. In a series of recent articles analyzing passages in al-Gami' wuguh al-iman, 
Sidney Griffith has called our attention to the existence of an Islamicly enculturated, 
second generation Arabic-speaking group of people within the Christian community, 
who attempted to accomodate themselves doctrinally to Islam without taking leave of 
that community.* 147 ' According to the author of al-Gami' (who wrote, it will be 
recalled, around 867 A.D.), this accomodation took the form of "fleeing from the 
confession of the Triunity of God and of His Incarnation, because of what the 
strangers say to them in reproach."* 148 ) For the author of al-Gami', such people are 
"hypocrites,"* 149 ) "Christians in name only,"* 150 ) "waverers."* 151 ) It is with them in mind 
that he compiles (gm) the ways {wuguh) that lead to the true faith (al-iman) in God's 
Triunity and His Incarnation.* 152 ) 

Similar complaints are heard in "On the Sufferings of Our Lord Christ," 
(poorly) preserved in Sinai ar. 553.* 153 > The anonymous author is moved to write 
because he has "found groups of our brethren mixing with foreign communities,"* 154 ) 
who have "sought the praise of the passing world"* 155 ) and who are being turned from 
their faith. Their specific form of accomodation to the "foreign communities" - it 

SARQAWI, Muhtar (1984), 87/12-13. 

146. CHARFI, "Fonction" (1994), 48. 

147. See especially GRIFFITH, "Kalam" (1990), with complete bibliography. 

148. .L>Jl o L- 1 *»' •'«■■■■" Cf BL or. 4950, f. 6 r /21-6 v /l. 

149. j^L,; ibid. f. 6 v /5. 

150. Jaii IjLaJ [sic]; ibid. f. 6 v /7. 

151. J^Jbl.; ibid., f. 7 v /7. 

152. See ibid., f. 5 r /4-5. 

153. Sinai ar. 553, ff. 30 v -44 r . 

154. Ibid. f. 30 v /15-16: L^l ^1 j >Jli~ (I y' LJl y-\ j* UJ»j 

155. Ibid., f. 31V1: XlSljJl cJUl cJUdl LJjJl ^JL. I^JLk,. 


later becomes clear that the author is speaking of the Muslim^ 156 ) -- was the denial of 
the simultaneous predication of divine and human activities to Jesus Christ/ 157 ) 

In the third place, we may mention the phenomenon of accomodation in 
religious practice. A particularly telling example of such accomodation is provided 
by the important work of Robert Schick, who recently studied the deliberate damage 
done to the images of persons and animals in church mosaics in Palestine during the 
first two centuries of Islamic occupation/ 158 ) Far from confirming the ideas of those 
who desire to connect this damage to the iconoclastic edict of the Umayyad caliph 
Yazid b. 'Abd al-Malik in 721/ 159 > Schick concludes that most of this damage was done 
in the early Abbasid period by Christians, who were typically careful in their work, 
effacing only the offending images and then repairing the mosaics, often with 
considerable artistic skill/ 160 ) This wholesale removal of images by Christians is rather 
mysterious, but the likeliest interpretation is that it reflects some form of 
accomodation to the Muslim objection to the depiction of creatures in which there is 
the breath of life/ 161 ) as well as to Jewish protests against image-making/ 162 ) 

Was it conviction or expediency that led Christians to remove images from 
their churches? Did they do away with portable icons as well as the fixed images in 
mosaic pavements? The evidence at hand for addressing such questions is limited, but 
that some Arabic-speaking Christians, at least, proceeded out of conviction and 
rejected portable icons as well as fixed images may be seen from the protest of 
Theodore Abu Qurrah in his "Chapters on Prostration to the Icons."* 163 ) On the other 
hand, that icon-piety had by no means died out in Abbasid Palestine is shown by 
stories in which miraculous icons play a role, notably the account of the conversion 
and martyrdom of St. Anthony Ruwah and the story of the icon of the crucified 
Christ which the Jews of Tiberias had had made. Abu Qurrah himself alludes to these 

156. See above, p. 131, for a text where the author quotes from the opponents' book: the Quran. 

157. Surprisingly, the author describes this as follows: ^ j ... • U.J..... JL«J* oLJ^'VL jj j 
oL;U~«>Jl jjj^jj — Jl ("they affirm the divine activities of our Lord Jesus Christ, and deny 
the bodily ones"); ibid, f. 31 r /3— 5. We would have expected the opposite. 

158. SCHICK, "Fate" (1987). His results are presented in popular form in his "Life" (1988). 

159. The standard study of this edict is VASILIEV, "Edict" (1956). 

160. One of the most important pieces of evidence for Schick's dating is the damage to the mosaics at 
Umm al-Rasas, which can be dated to sometime after 785. See his summary and illustrative 
photographs in SCHICK, "Life" (1988), 218-21. 

161. See GRIFFITH, 'Tract" (1985), esp. 68-71. 

162. For the evidence for the development of a wave of Jewish iconoclasm from the end of the fifth 
century, see FREY, "Question" (1934). 

163. Ed. DICK, I cones (1986). Theodore's treatise, it should be emphasized, must be understood in the 
context that Schick's work illuminates rather than in terms of the struggle against Byzantine 


stories/ 164 ' both of which are preserved in manuscripts of the tenth century/ 165 ' And 
yet, there are surprising silences about the icons in the apologies of Abu Qurrah's 
Melkite theological successors. For example, when the author of al-Gami' wuguh 
al-lman turns his attention to Christian worship, it is for him the amconic cross 
rather than the holy icons which play the role of focussing Christians' attention for 
prayer/ 166 ' Similarly, the description of shrines commemorating the life of Christ and 
the witness of his apostles in al-Burhan of Bishop Peter of Bayt Ra's does 
not mention icons. It does mention the miraculous mandylion of Edessa, but, as 
Griffith points out, the author emphatically states that this is not something pictured, 
traced, or engraved/ 167 ' Not all of Abu Qurrah's Melkite successors in the task of 
Arabic apologetics appear to have rushed to pick up his standard in the battle for the 

2. Drawing the boundaries 

The reader will not have missed the fact that the literary evidence we possess 
for doctrinal and practical accomodation to Islam is contained in writings designed to 
combat that very accomodation. If many Christians saw in accomodation of one 
form or another a tactic for communal survival and/or personal advancement in a 
society in which Islam was politically and culturally dominant, others saw in this 
accomodation a threat to the Church, all the more dangerous because its spokesmen 
and activists came from within the Christian community. The Christians who saw 
accomodation as a threat understood it to be their duty to draw clear boundaries 
between that which was Christian and that which was not, defining the Christian 
community by those doctrines and practices most peculiar to it/ 168 ' Thus Theodore 
Abu Qurrah argued for the necessity of venerating the icons, the logical outcome of 
the repudiation of this practice being the repudiation also of the principal mysteries of 

164. See ibid., 173-74 (Ch. 16, #15-22). 

165. "The Passion of St. Anthony Ruwah" (GCAL I, 524; NASRALLAH, Histoire (1988), 165-66; ed. and 
FT: DICK, "Passion" (1961)): Sinai ar. 513, ff. 363 r -372 v . "The Story of the Icon of Our Lord 
Christ which the Jews Mocked" (Syriac recension and ET in BUDGE, History (1899)): Sinai ar. 
461, ff. 62 r -88 r . There was once a copy of the latter text in a manuscript written by Isaac of 
Mount Sinai, perhaps in 869 A.D., a fragment of which is preserved as Sinai NF perg. 1 
(MElMARES, Catalogue (1985), 17*-18*). 

166. Chapter 23, in BL or. 4950, ff. 166 v -173 v . 

167. GRIFFITH, "Eutychius" (1982), esp. 182, commenting on the passage found in CACHIA, 
Demonstration (1960-61), I, 207 (# 384). 

168. There has been some discussion recently of the role of doctrine as "social demarcation." See 
McGRATH, Genesis (1990), 37-52, with further references (in particular to the work of Niklas 


the faith/ 169 ) And as for the author of al-Gdmi' wugiih al-iman, he devotes his 
Chapter 14 to a list of doctrines and doctrinal "fudges" which exclude a person from 
being considered a Christian/ 170 ) Bracketing the list are the failure to confess that 
Allah is "Father, Son and Holy Spirit"* 171 ) and the attempt to say that "Christ is God, 
but God is not Christ."* 172 ) 

It may be seen from the above discussion that a stand for the integrity of the 
faith could be taken on any number of practices or doctrines: the veneration of 
icons, the Triunity of God, the divinity of Christ. Very frequently, however, that 
which served to define and distinguish the faith of true Christian believers over 
against the Muslims, the Jews, and accomodationist Christians was the crucifixion of 
the one confessed as Lord and God. This becomes especially clear in two 
remarkable early ninth-century texts, by the Jacobite Abu Ra'itah and the Melkite 
Abu Qurrah. 

(a) Abu Ra'itah on the interpolated Trisagion hymn 

We begin with what might seem an unpromising field in which to seek 
elucidation of Christian-Muslim dynamics under the Abbasids: the controversy 
between Chalcedonian and "Monophysite" Christians over the Trisagion hymn, 'Aytoc, 
6 0e6c„ ayioc, ^Ioxupoc,, ayioc, ^AOavatoc,, eXerpov rpnc, ("Holy God, holy Mighty 
One, holy Deathless One, have mercy upon us.") Some years after the Council of 
Chalcedon the anti-Chalcedonian patriarch of Antioch, Peter the Fuller (patriarch 
468-88), had interpolated the words 6 otaupcoGeic, 5i' fpac, ("who was crucified for 
us") before "have mercy upon us." Chalcedonians saw the interpolation as a heretical 
attribution of death to the Holy Trinity, but for Chalcedon's Cyrillian opponents - 
who usually took the hymn as addressed to Christ - the hymn was a powerful 
repudiation of the "Nestorianizing" tendencies they perceived in the two-nature 
terminology of Chalcedon. And thus in its interpolated form the Trisagion became "a 
touchstone of Monophysite orthodoxy."* 1 ™) 

The argument that had been joined in Greek was continued in Arabic between 
no less celebrated theologians than Theodore Abu Qurrah and Habib b. Hidmah Abu 
Ra'itah. Toward the year 815, Abu Qurrah was in Armenia preaching Chalcedonian 
orthodoxy, and had attacked the interpolated form of the Trisagion hymn. Abu 
Ra'itah, though unable to respond to the invitation of the Armenian regent Ashot 

169. Theodore makes this point at the very beginning of his treatise on the icons: DICK, lebnes 
(1986), 90-94 (Ch. 2). 

170. See p. 265 (note 135) above. 

171. Wagh 1, BL or. 4950, f. 76 r . 

172. Wagh 16, ibid., ff. 86 r -88 v . 

173. FREND, Movement (1972), 168. 


Smbat to come and debate Abu Qurrah in person/ 174 ) drafted letters which have been 
preserved. In one of them, he addresses the Armenian regent as follows:* 175 ) 

It is incumbent upon us, my Lord, 
that we explain our aim and way [of thinking] with regard to 
our threefold attribution of holiness (taqdis) to God, 

and our adding to it [the mention of] the crucifixion 
that saves us, 
bringing the believers to awareness and pride 
{tanblhan li-l-mu'minin wa-fahran), 

and bringing the adherents of heresies and calumny 
to silence. 
Our taqdis of God, my Lord, 

is a taqdis which is particularly appropriate 
to the people of this blessed New Call/ 176 ) 

by which it distinguishes (mumayyizah) between its 
people and all religious communities differing from it. 

Abu Ra'itah points out that the names by which God is invoked in the New 
Testament differ from those of the Old Testament; just so, the names by which 
orthodox Christians address God in their prayers and praise will differ from those of 
other religious communities. He goes on/ 177 ) 

174. Abu Ra'itah was in prison at the time. He sent his theologian nephew, the deacon Nonnus of 
Nisibis, in his place. 

175. GRAF, Abu Ra'ita (1950), 76 (#5). 

176. I.e., the New Covenant. 

177. Ibid., 76/12-15. 



1. 4-~jL> Ail (j-U-L* 

(1) Ed. /i. 

If, O noble believer, our taqdis and our prayers 
were [only] "in the name of the Holy God," 
without closing with the mention of the crucifixion 

(added to it by the true believers), 
that would not differentiate {faraqa) between them 
and the Jews 
and the "People of the South'] 
For everyone attributes holiness to God in himself, 

[whether] three times, or a greater number, or fewer. 

In Abu Ra'itah's usage, the "People of the South" (ahl al-tayman) are the Muslims. 

Abu Ra'itah's point in all of this, of course, is polemical. For him, the taqdis 
of Abu Qurrah and the other Chalcedonians is insufficiently differentiated from that 
of any of the other Near Eastern religions and sects. They all worship a chief deity, 
described as God/ess, Holy, Undying; but not crucified. As for orthodox Christians^ 178 ) 

"Htiii \j\ja Til 

.Zfi-Ju j\ <J>«JJ SjLpIju* SAjU- iL» Jj ^j-jJuLj oJL>«j» 

(1) Ed. 1=15. 

178. Ibid., 76/20-77/2. 



The taqdis of the saved believers, my Lord, 

is, in this case, threefold; 
and their joining [the mention ofl the crucifixion to it 
sets it at variance from (muhalif) the taqdis of every 
community that turns aside from and resists the truth, 
and [of every] heresy. 

Using a variety of lexical items {mumayyizah bayn, faraqa bayn, muhalif) to 
express the notion of differentiation, Abu Ra'itah stresses the necessity that the 
orthodox Christian invocation of God be different from that of other religious 
communities. While he does not say so explicitly, in his time and place he must have 
had the Muslims especially in view, even if he could also point to Jewish, Manichaean 
and Zoroastrian communities. Now, that which best succeeds in distinguishing the 
Christian invocation of God from that of all these other communities is the public, 
liturgical mention of His crucifixion. Through this mention the believers are alerted 
to whom they are and where the boundaries of their community are to be drawn. 
They are invited to boast or gloryi 119 '* precisely in that which other religious 
communities find scandalous, and which therefore is the mark of their particularity. 

(b) Abu Qurrah on the icons of Christ crucified 

While the loyal Chalcedonian theologian Abu Qurrah was inevitably opposed to 
Abu Ra'itah in the matter of the Trisagion addition, he believed as firmly as Abu 
Ra'itah that the Christian community was to be clearly marked off from the 
surrounding religious world, and that faith in the crucified Christ, confessed as Lord 
and God, was the marker. For Abu Qurrah, the means of demarcation was not the 
liturgical use of the Trisagion addition, but rather the unashamed veneration of the 
icon of Christ crucified. 

This may be seen from the climactic chapter of his "Chapters on Prostration to 
the Icons."* 180 ) Abu Qurrah begins the chapter by setting out the paradoxical character 
of Christian worship: Christians render homage to Christ by their prostration to his 
icon, and especially do they render him homage when they picture him as 
scandalously crucified!* 181 ' There follows a little allegory of a king who was taken 
and mistreated by his enemies. Most of his followers fell away, but some, in the 
sincerity of their love, remained. Abu Qurrah continues:* 182 ) 

179. Words of the root fhr are important in this connection, both in Christian exhortation (such as 
Abu Ra'itah's, above; or Abu Qurrah's, below) and in incredulous Muslim description of Christian 
belief (e.g., pp. 243-44 above). 

180. DICK, Icones (1986), 212-18 (Chapter 24). 

181. Ibid., 212 (#1-2). 

182. Ibid., 214 (#12-14). 



His enemies mocked them, saying: 

"Woe to you! Are you not ashamed to have this man 
as your king?" 
Then those cried out at the top of their voices, boasting: 
'Truly we have no king, no lord, and no delight other 
than this man. 1 " 
And so they likewise were crucified with him, 
bearing his shame 

and sharing in his pains, 
until he accomplished his subtle design, 

and returned to his kingship, comfort, and splendor. 

Abu Qurrah then applies this transparent allegory to the icons of the crucified 


Ibid., 215 (#18-20). 



And likewise we, the Christians, 

if in our churches we depict Christ scandalously crucified, 
and others [who are not Christians] notice him, 
saying to us: 

"Woe to you! Are you not ashamed 
that this is your God?" 
then we say at the top of our voices: 

"Yes, this is our savior, our hope, and our delight!" 

This loyalty is like that of the martyrs, who boasted in the cross of Christ before 
kings, and it earns the same reward they earned. On the other hand, to be 
embarrassed at the icon of the crucified Christ is to lose everything, no matter how 
much one has suffered otherwise for the sake of Christ/ 184 ' 

Before the end of the treatise there is an objection:^) 

: J3U Jli &l> 


If someone says: 

"The 'outsiders' may mock us because of the cross of Christ 
without seeing these icons!" 
let him know concerning those ["outsiders"] 
who enter our churches, 

that if these icons were not present in our churches, 
it would not occur to most of them to react 
in the way we have mentioned. 
As for the icons, they are what entices them to mock us! 

Remarkably, Abu Qurra assumes that it is a positive blessing for Christians that the 
"outsiders" mock the Christians for their faith in the crucified Christ. For him, the 
icons of the crucifixion are necessarily present. They stand in the churches and 
provoke a crisis: for the "outsider," the usual reaction is rejection and mockery 

184. Ibid., 215 (#21-23). 

185. Ibid., 216 (#26-28). 


(although faith can also result, as in the case the blind Jew Ananias)/ 186 ) while for the 
Christian, the mockery provoked by the icon provides the acid test of faith, a test 
which is a sharing in the sufferings of the martyrs. 

We have seen, then, that an important element in the Arabic Christian 
response to pressure to conform to Islamic ideology was the bold and 
uncompromising assertion of the particularities of the Christian faith, especially at the 
point at which the paradoxes of the faith were most sharply experienced as scandal: 
the crucifixion of Christ, confessed as Lord and God. While pressures to accomodate 
Islamic sensibilities and to conform to Islamic ideology tended to blur the boundaries 
of the Christian community, the assertion of the crucifixion of God served (at least 
for Jacobites and Melkites) to re-delineate the boundaries, and to call Christians to a 
renewed sense of identity over against those on the other side. 

C. Scandal Transformed into Proof 

L On the true religion 

One of the most important loci in the controversial literature arising from the 
Muslim-Christian-Jewish encounters of the early 'Abbasid period is that which we 
may label "On the true religion.''^ 187 ) Christian apologists adopted a variety of 
approaches to this subject. From the time of the very earliest Christian-Muslim 
debates, as far as we can tell, they identified fulfilled prophecy and evidentiary 
miracles as positive signs by which the true religion might be discerned, and tacitly 
or explicitly called the prophethood of Muhammad into question because of their 
absence in his career/ 188 ) That the Christian argument was not without effect is clear 
from the response of Muslim apologists, who sought out prophecies of Muhammad in 
the Christian scriptures/ 189 ) worked out their own sets of criteria for discerning the 
true prophet, and developed the doctrine of i'gaz al-Qur'dn, the inimitablity of the 
Qur'anic speech, proposed as Islam's unsurpassable evidentiary miracle/ 190 ) 

186. Related in "The Story of the Icon of Our Lord Christ which the Jews Mocked." See note 165 

187. On this locus see GRIFFITH, "Religion" (1979) (a good general introduction); SAMIR, "Liberte" 
(1980-81), 97-121; STROUSMA, "Signs" (1985); GRIFFITH, "Faith" (1992). 

188. See, for example, the apposite passages in the Timothy-al-Mahdi debate: conveniently, 
PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 21*-23* (#92-101, on the witness of the prophets) and 27* 
(#130-33, on evidentiary miracles). 

189. See above, p. 127, note 167. 

190. See STROUSMA, "Signs" (1985), 106-9. Strousma's helpful article also discusses Jewish contributions 
to the Arabic debate. 


A positive criterion for discerning the true religion in addition to fulfilled 
prophecy and evidentiary miracles is advanced in what is probably one of Theodore 
Abu Qurrah's earliest writings, "On the Existence of the Creator, and the True 
Religion."' 191 ) For the young Abu Qurrah, the true religion is that which possesses 
doctrines "in accord with what one might rationally conclude to be the truth, from an 
honest consideration of the existential requirements of human nature."' 192 ) It is not the 
body of this treatise that best represents the Arabic Christian apologetic mainstream, 
however, but its Appendix/ 193 ) where the crux of the argument is not the presentation 
of the positive criteria that indicate the true religion, but rather the negative reasons 
for which a person might choose a religion other than the true one. 

In this Appendix to "On the True Religion," Abu Qurrah summarizes the 
reasons for which people might decide to adopt the religion of one of its 
propagandists: he might constrain them to do so by the sword; he might grant them 
worldly wealth, power, and status; he might give scope to their worldly passions; or he 
might present to them a theology that the minds of ordinary people find attractive 
(tastahsinuha 'uqiilu l-'ammah) or familiar/ 194 ) We note that each item in his list 
corresponds to well-known Christian charges against Islam, which is clearly the 
religion that Abu Qurrah has chiefly in mind/ 195 ) He goes on to argue that none of 
these reasons can account for the acceptance of Christianity at the hands of the 
apostles, men without status, possessions, strength, or learning' 196 ) who called their 
hearers to asceticism' 197 ) and to "a new and strange matter" that their "fleshly" minds 
did not find attractive, namely, the birth, rejection, suffering, crucifixion, death, 
burial, resurrection, and ascension of the one who is God and Son of God, the sole 
Redeemers^ Since Christianity was not accepted for any of the reasons just 
mentioned, the secret of its undisputed spread must lie elsewhere: namely, in the 
evidentiary miracles that accompanied its preaching/ 1 ") archetypically the raising of 

191. Its modern editor, Ignace Dick, dates the work to about 780; DICK, Createur (1982), xxviii. In 
what follows, I shall abbreviate the title to "On the True Religion." 

192. GRIFFITH, "Faith" (1994), 20. 

193. DICK, Createur (1982), 259-70 (Chapter 16). This is in effect a separate little treatise, and its ideas 
are sufficiently in tension with those of "On the True Religion" to raise the question of whether 
they were written at the same time or whether their amalgamation is a secondary development. 

194. Ibid., 260 (#3-7). 

195. Later analyses are formulated so as to discredit Judaism (and other religions) as well as Islam. See 
the lists below, and note especially the addition of al-ta'assub, racial/tribal/group solidarity, which 
could be understood as explaining the religious adherence of both the Arabs and the Jews. 

196. DICK, Createur (1982), 262-63 (#14-18). 

197. Ibid., 263 (#19). 

198. Ibid. 263-64 (#20-23). 

199. Ibid. 264-65 (#24-28). 


the dead "in the name of Jesus Christ, crucified in Jerusalem."* 200 ) 

We would do well to pause and ponder the audacity of the argument. Abu 
Qurrah was keenly aware that Muslims (and Jews) found Christian teaching, especially 
that of the crucifixion of the one who is God and Son of God, to be scandalous. He 
himself reports some vivid epithets that could be flung at the Christians' belief: it is 
"folly,"* 201 ) "an abomination,"* 202 ) so senseless that "the delirium of sleep is more to the 
point than their speech."* 203 ) But in the Appendix to "On the True Religion" he 
incorporates the sense of scandal and repulsion aroused by this "abominable, delirious 
folly" into an argument for its truth: this folly is such a stumbling-block for the 
human mind that only divine authentication can account for the observable fact that 
people throughout the world, wise and ignorant and those in between, believe it! And 
to give this dialectic of paradoxicality one final twist, Abu Qurrah points out that it is 
not just any sort of divine demonstration that authenticates the Christian religion, but 
specifically the miracle of raising the dead in the name of the Crucified. Abu Qurrah 
emphasizes this point in "On the Confirmation of the Gospel":* 204 ) 


And they [the apostles] did not say to the dead person, 
"Rise in the name of God {bi-smi -llah)V 
but rather they said to him, 

200. Ibid., 269 (#48); similarly Abu Qurrah's "On the Confirmation of the Gospel" (see the next 
paragraph), and in the Masail wa-agwibah 'aqliyyah wa-ilahiyyah, Sinai ar. 434, f. 178 r . In Abu 
Qurrah's Greek opusculum 21, by contrast, the evidentiary miracle mentioned is the healing of a 
blind man "in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who was born of Mary in Bethlehem, fled 
into Egypt, was seized by the Jews, hung on a tree, given vinegar and gall to drink, whose side 
was wounded with a lance, and who was buried in the tomb"; PG 97, 1552BC. 

201. j^.; in "Chapters on Prostration to the Icons," DICK, I cones (1986), 94 (Ch. 2, #16). 

202. in "On the Law and the Gospel and the Chalcedonian Faith," BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 147/15. 

203. jji alJ — ll ^jJi ^jjj' ^j_Jl jUJLfc; in "Chapters on Prostration to the Icons," DICK, 
Icones (1986), 92 (Ch. 2, #11). 

204. BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 74/16-19. 


"Dead one, 

I tell you in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, 
whom the Jews crucified in Jerusalem, 

And the dead person rose immediately. 

Thus is the paradox of the crucifixion of the one who is God and Son of God built 
into both the negative and the positive moments of the argument. 

We do not know whether or not Theodore Abu Qurrah was the first to 
formulate this procedure for discerning the true religion through an analysis of the 
natural human motives for adopting a religion, and an examination of the available 
religions in the light of this analysis. He may well deserve this distinction, especially 
if the Appendix to "On the True Religion" is indeed one of Abu Qurrah's earliest 
works. Whatever its origins, the procedure quickly became part of the standard 
apologetic arsenal of arabophone Christians of every confessional community, as we 
see from its use in the writings of Abu Qurrah's contemporaries Habib b. Hidmah 
Abu Ra'itah/ 20 *) a Jacobite/ 206 ) and 'Ammar al-BasrT/ 207 ) a Nestorian.* 208 ' 

These apologists did not develop one fixed list of natural human motives for 
adopting a religion. In addition to the list found in the Appendix to "On the True 
Religion," Abu Qurrah gives another one in "On the Confirmation of the Gospel," 
where four doubtful motives for adhering to a religion are named: (1) al-rahs 
(license); (2) al-'izz (strength); (3) al-ta'assub (ethnic solidarity); and (4) qunu' al-'aql 
al-suql ("the ready persuasion of the mercantile mind")/ 209 ' In "The Apology for the 
Christian Religion," Abu Ra'itah lists six motives: (1) ragbah fl l-'agil (desire with 
respect to this world); (2) tama' fl l-dgil (ambition with respect to the world to come); 
(3) rahbah qahirah (coercing fear); (4) ruhsah fl kulli matlub min al-mahzurdt (license 
with respect to desired but forbidden things); (5) istihsan li-tanmlqihi wa-zahrafatihi 
(reasoned approval of aesthetically appealing teachings); (6) tawdtu' wa-'asabiyyah, 
wa-l-wusul ild l-'izz wa-l-qudrah wa-l-tarwah wa-l- nusrah (collusion and ethnic 
solidarity for the purpose of group advancement)/ 210 ' 'Ammar makes a variety of lists 
of what he calls "worldly motives" (asbdb al-dunyd), the most comprehensive of 
which includes: (1) al-tawdtu' (collusion); (2) al-sayf (the sword); (3) al-ragd'ib min 

205. See "The Apology for the Christian Religion," GRAF, Abu Ra'itah (1951), 131-140 (#1-12); and "On 
the Truth of Christianity," SAMIR, "Liberte" (1980-81), 100-1. 

206. See also the Syriac apologetic treatise of Abu Ra'itah's nephew Nonnus of Nisibis, which includes 
a passage proving Christianity to be the true religion; VAN ROEY, Nonnus (1948), 29*-32* 
[LT 64*-67*]. 

207. See both the Kitab al-burhan. Chapters 2-3 (HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 24*-41*) and the Kitab 
al-masail wa-l-agwibah II, 6-14 (ibid., 135*-47*). 

208. See also the response of the Nestorian Hunayn b. Ishaq (as well as that of the Melkite Qusta 
b. Luqa) to the letter of Ibn al-Munaggim in SAMIR/NWIYA, "Correspondence" (1981). 

209. BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 71. 

210. GRAF, Abu Raitah (1951), 131-32 (#2). 


al-amwal wa-l-ri'asah wa-l-'izz (objects of desire such as wealth, authority, and 
strength; 'Ammar also refers to this item as al-risa wa-l-musana'ah, bribes and 
flattery); (4) al- asabiyyah (ethnic solidarity); (5) al-istihsan (reasoned approval of 
plausible teachings); (6) al-tarhis fi l-sara'i' (license with respect to laws); (7) hayalat 
min al-sihr wa-subahatihi (the illusions and specious proofs of sorcery)/ 211 ) But despite 
the differences in detail, a cursory examination confirms that the various lists all 
cover much the same ground. Coercion, license, the pursuit of wealth and power, and 
ethnic collusion and solidarity are everywhere listed. 

We notice in particular that the motive which Abu Qurrah described in the 
Appendix to "On the True Religion" as the presence of a theology that the minds of 
ordinary people find attractive (tastahsinuha.) (and which he later labelled "the ready 
persuasion of the mercantile mind") is found in Abu Ra'itah's and 'Ammar's 
presentations with the label al-istihsan. This term was used in early Islamic legal 
theory, where it refers to decision-making by means of personal deliberation. Here 
the term may be explained as a reasoned approval of doctrines that strike one as 
rationally plausible and/or aesthetically appealing/ 212 ) In each and every case in which 
this motive is listed, the apologist goes on to insist that the acceptance and spread of 
Christianity has nothing whatever to do with al-istihsan, since its teachings - in 
particular, the crucifixion of the Son of God - move the mind to scandalized disbelief 
rather than to reasoned approval! Abu Ra'itah formulates the argument sharply and 
artistically/ 213 ) 

t cr _*U»«JI ^—JLlI L»l j 

t d_.L.jJL ._,jj1U ^ II 
c4_JL«U ^juJI 

211. From the Kitab al-burhan, HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 31*-39*. 

212. 'Ammar stresses rational plausibility in the Kitab al-burhan (HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 36*), and 
aesthetic appeal in the Kitab al-masa'il wa-l-agwibah (ibid., 136*, 138*). Abu Ra'itah stresses 
aesthetic appeal in "The Apology for the Christian Religion" (GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 134-35). 

213. GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 134-35 (#7). 



As for the fifth category, 

which is the reasoned approval [of a belief-system] 
because of its elegance and aesthetic flourishes, 

this also is inconceivable for the religion of the Gospel. 
[That is] because the one who is intended in worship 
and sought in religious observance, 
who is the stored-up treasure of the End 

and hoped-for reward, 
upon whom is reliance in this world 
and in the next, 
is a crucified man, 

weak in appearance and despicable to view among his crucifiers, 
who received him with every maltreatment, 
inevitably culminating in his death and burial. 
What sort of "reasoned approval" belongs to the person who accepts this? 
What embellishment or elegance attaches to the person 
who is firmly convinced of this? 

The Christian apologists intended their argument for the truth of Christianity 
through an analysis of the reasons that make the acceptance of a religion humanly 
explicable to be an appeal to reason. From our historical distance, it is not difficult 
to see that the reason controlling the argument is evangelical reason; the apologists' 
lists of unworthy motives are a kind of negative schematic description of the New 
Testament and the earliest history of Christianity. As Francois Jourdan commented of 
one of the Christian "true religion" texts, the cross of Christ lies constantly just 
beneath the surface of the text even if it is not explicitly mentioned/ 214 ) It is 
therefore no surprise that Muslim polemicists would write works "on the true religion" 
proposing Qur'anicly reasonable criteria for discerning the true religion, that is, 
criteria summarizing the narrative of the Qur'an and earliest Islamic history/ 215 ) All 
the same, the Christian arguments were not without effect. As Sarah Strousma 
pointed out/ 216 ) 

. . . the eleventh-century mu'tazilite master 'Abd al-Jabbar goes out of his way to 
demonstrate that Muhammad's victories were indeed miraculous, and not at all military; 
that Muhammad came from a humble family and that, consequently, it was not for 
earthly gains that his followers joined him; that his rejection by his tribe invalidates 

214. JOURDAN, "Mort" (1988), 371 (on Qusta b. Luqa's response to Ibn al-Munaggim). 

215. In particular, victory is proposed as a mark of the true prophet of the true religion, as in 'All 
al-Tabari's Kitab al-din wa-l-dawlah, 'ADIL NUWAYHID, Din (1979), 108-13, or 'The Letter of 
'Umar," SOURDEL, "Pamphlet" (1966), 33 [FT 26]. 

216. STROUSMA, "Signs" (1985), 114. 


the accusation of tashd'ubS 2 ^ 1 ^ and even that Muhammad's message spread in all 
languages. Together, these contentions put forward an uncommonly Christian, 
"Jesus-like" portrait of Muhammad's prophecy. 

Thus the Christian argument for discerning the true religion by means of an analysis 
of "unworthy" motives for accepting a religion was a formidable one. It was in the 
framework of this argument that the "paradox christology" at its most scandalous 
point -- the crucifixion of the one confessed as Lord and God - found not only space 
for existence, but a positive apologetic role. 

2. On the true scripture 

Precisely the same kind of argument that arabophone Christian apologists 
made for the truth of Christianity as a whole could also be made for the integrity of 
the Christian scripture in the face of Muslim charges of falsification or tahrif. 
Already in the dialogue of Timothy with al-Mahdi we find the catholicos arguing that 
the presence of that which Muslims find nonsensical or blasphemous in the biblical 
text is evidence that Christians had not tampered with it:< 218 ) 

". . . For if we had in some way been making changes in the books [of the Bible], we 
would have changed those things considered by some people to be unworthy (bsir) in 
our confession." 

Our victorious king asked me: "What are those things which you call 'mean 
(z'ur) in our confession'?" 

1 answered his benevolence: "Christ's growth in stature and wisdom; his food, 
drink, and weariness; his anger, ignorance, and prayer; his suffering, crucifixion, and 
burial; and all the other things like these which are considered by some people to be 
weak (mhil) and contemptible (sit). 

'Ammar al-Basri incorporated this argument into his defence of the integrity of 
the Christian scripture in the fourth chapter of his Kitdb al-burhdnS 219 ') There he 
considers and rejects the possible motivations for the falsification of scripture. Did 
the alleged falsifiers want to magnify Christ? No, for the reasons pointed out by 
Timothy/ 220 ) Did they want to belittle him? Again no, since the New Testament as 
we have it also proclaims Christ "Judge of the Last Day" (dayyan yawm al-din), "Lord 
of the worlds" (rabb al-'dlamin), and "God, Creator of things that exist" (Allah, hdliq 
al-akwdn)P n i Finally, did they want to replace difficult precepts with easy ones?< 222 > 

217. A synonym of the ta'assub, "tribal/ethnic/racial solidarity," of the Christian lists of negative criteria. 

218. MINGANA, "Apology" (1928), 130/1/14-2/2; cf. PUTMAN/SAMIR, Eglise (1975), 49* (#265). 

219. HAYEK, Apologie (1977), 43*-44*. 

220. Ibid., 43V20-22. 

221. Ibid., 44V3-5. 

222. Ibid., lines 6-19. 


tjmi US' Lls^ * 


Jl j^Jl £-ajjI 4jl j 

pfjl-Ajl v^^ J "-' 'j-V^.? ^ 
!^ fJLp »Jl>-Ij *J*JiiP Ijl jli' JJS jti 

j>Jd\j >*Jlj jlkLJI ^L>w»Ij il^LJI J* lit ta^-i -ipt X>) 

stj^l ^'Ij J^-jJI ^' a* J**> 8 

tol x-iJI j O I III I 

(1) Ed. ^liiwl. 



1 Or did they want to abolish those of its precepts that they found difficult, 

and establish those that they found easy? 

2 Why did they not do away with the Scripture altogether, 

(which would have been easier for them,) 

and compose for themselves a scripture as they desired, 

3 affirming in it that, 

when the Jews wanted to kill Christ and approached him, 

he blew upon them with a breath and consumed them with fire, 

and that he was raised into heaven alive, 

and that death did not reach him, nor harm befall him; 

4 and that a man may marry as many women as he desires? 

5 [Why did they not] forbid the torment of their bodies 

with fasting, constancy in prayer, and the forsaking of pleasures, 

as the Magians have done? 
That would have been more pleasant and easier for them! 

6 Yes, and they [might have] affirmed the existence of those things 

that their minds grasp as pleasurable also in the hereafter, 
such as marriage, eating, drinking, and so on, 
since their frivolity with respect to God's Scripture had reached the point 
that they falsified whatever they desired in it. 

7 And why did they not eliminate harsh things from it, 

such as its call to them to worship a crucified man? 

(For I do not know anything more difficult for kings 
and possessors of authority, might, and pride 
than to avow the worship of a crucified man!) 

8 Or such as its prohibition of a man marrying more than one woman? 

9 Or such as its injunction of humility and submission, 

the patient bearing of wrong, 

forsaking pleasures and passions, 

constancy in fasting and prayer, 
and the like? 

10 But since they did not exchange the things that they found burdensome 

for things that were easy for them 

(such as we have described), 
it is clear that they did not change a single letter of God's scripture from its place! 

'Ammar's argument for the integrity of the Christian scripture is in its 
structure precisely the same as his argument for the truth of Christianity as a whole. 
Just as the doctrinal and ethical content of Christianity confounds any attempt to find 
sociologically and psychologically explicable reasons for its acceptance and spread, so 
also the actual content of the Bible frustrates any attempt to formulate a coherent 
charge of falsification. As was the case in the Christian "true religion" apology, so it 
is in its "true scripture" subtheme: while several aspects of the content of the 
Christian scripture are mentioned, the fact that the one whom Christians worship is a 
crucified man (#7 above) is at the center of the argument. The Bible's greatest 
scandal is the best evidence for its integrity. 

The "true religion" apology has a sharply polemical edge: the apologist 
demonstrates that the spread of Christianity is not to be explained by worldly 
motives, and gives the reader very broad hints that the case is otherwise for the 
spread of Islam. The same polemical edge is obvious in 'Ammar's rebuttal of Muslim 


charges of tahrif. In the passage reproduced above, we immediately notice that 
'Ammar's description of an "easy" scripture composed to order is nothing other than a 
Christian caricature of the Qur'an/ 223 > Furthermore, section #3 of this passage is 
nothing other than a (somewhat flippant) paraphrase of al-Nisd' (4):157! 'Ammar's 
implication is clear: if one analyzes the Bible's and the Qur'an's content - also with 
respect to the death of Christ - in the light of possible motives for altering belief- 
and conduct-defining scriptures, that which proves to be suspect is the Qur'an, not the 
Bible. The "true religion'V'true scripture" apology as 'Ammar developed it provided 
him with a framework for hinting (if not quite asserting) that the Qur'an's denial of 
Christ's crucifixion is a psychologically understandable but still altogether human 
attempt to "correct" the Bible's scandal-giving story of God's paradoxical ways among 
things human. 

IV. Conclusion 

Through history the paradox christology has been a sign that the biblical interpretation 
of God is still alive in the church, that Hellenic religion has not utterly driven it 

out.( 22 <> 

This chapter has been an attempt to describe the vicissitudes of the Christian 
"paradox christology" - especially its scandalous language about the death of the one 
confessed as Lord and God - in Arabic-language controversy with Muslims, whose 
language about God, we have seen, shared a number of important features with that 
of Hellenic religion. In the first part of the chapter we examined the clash between, 
on the one hand, the Bible's confession of God's Incarnation and the Church's paradox 
rhetoric asserting and celebrating that confession, and on the other, the Qur'an's 
confession and the kaldnis defence of God's tawhld ("unicity"). As Christians and 
Muslims worked out the "grammars" of their distinctive scripturally-authorized 
languages of faith, they proposed patterns and rules of speech about God and His 
ways with human beings that could only be understood as mutually contradictory. 

In the second part of the chapter, we examined a first level of Christian 
apologetic consisting in attempts to blunt the sharp edges of the "paradox christology" 
through a variety of terminological, dialectical, and illustrative devices, as well as 
some Islamic responses to these devices. There can be no doubt that this material was 
of great importance at the time of its production. The Christian apologetic devices 
may well have served to quiet the doubts of Christians disturbed by Islamic claims, or 
to gain Christian communities some degree of respect and space for life from Muslim 

223. This is pointed out in GRIFFITH, '"Ammar" (1983), 166-67. 

224. JENSON, Identity (1982), 64. 


officials. Similarly, the Islamic "refutation" literature probably served important 
missionary and catechetical purposes. From a particularly religious point of view, 
however, the results at this level of apologetic and polemic are disappointing. On the 
Christian side, the apologetic devices used, if taken in isolation from (for example) the 
liturgies actually prayed by the apologists, by and large represent a form of 
accomodation to Muslim pressure and a declension from the faith of the Church. 
Thus Antiochene theologians tended towards the use of language in which the one 
"Christ" was little more than a cipher (as in the Nestorian and Melkite christological 
analogies), while Alexandrian theologians tended to transform the Cyrillian confession 
of God the Word's taking possession of a human history into a mere dialectic, that of 
the whole and its parts. On the Muslim side, we encountered dialectical and rhetorical 
brilliance, but little in the way of appreciation of the distinctive Christian languages. 

But alongside this first level of apologetic discourse we found (in the third part 
of the chapter) a very different Christian theological mood: that of 
tradition-maintaining and community-defining assertion of the "paradox christology" at 
its sharpest: ". . . God . . . died . . . ." This mood of assertion came to be embraced 
and sustained by a second level of Christian apologetic, the attempt to discern the 
true religion through a procedure of eliminating those adopted for natural human 
motives. And thus the "paradox christology" gained a home in the Arabic-speaking 
churches, not only in the fastnesses of their liturgies, but also in their apologetics. 

While the "true religion" apologetic undoubtedly gave space and prominence to 
the "paradox christology" and its language about the death of the one confessed as 
Lord and God, it is clear that the apologetic is external to the issues involved in the 
christology, containing and sustaining but not explaining its conundrums. The task of 
explanation - a task which would inevitably lead to the most basic questions about 
the identity and being of the God bespoken by the paradox rhetoric -- was not 
undertaken in the Ddr al-lsldm in the ninth Christian century. It has barely begun in 
the twentieth. 


I wish to the last word in this study to the arabophone Christian apologists. 
First, however, I will offer a few personal observations on the Christian-Muslim 
controversy over the cross as we have traced it in the previous chapters. 

1. Some observations by a Christian 

As I pointed out in my preface, I undertook this study in the confidence that 
the literature would reveal an interaction between Christian and Muslim apologists 
and polemicists resulting in development over time in their discourse about the cross 
of Christ. I believe that each of the previous three chapters shows that this 
confidence was justified, at least to a certain degree. Whether we examine the 
intricacies of Christian and Muslim exegesis of Al 'Imran (3):55 and related Qur'anic 
texts/ 1 ) or the varied Christian use of scripture in controversy with the Muslims over 
the cross/ 2 ) or the Christian theologians' search for an adequate apologetic 
soteriology/ 3 ) or the increase in sophistication of the Muslim refutations of Christian 
cross-discourse/ 4 ) we find indications that the controversialists and apologists of each 
faith were - occasionally! -- aware of what those of the other faith were saying, and 
that over time arguments were corrected, honed, refashioned, or abandoned. If the 
literature offers numerous examples of polemical tactics and rhetoric that modern 
dialogue-oriented religious people find distasteful, it also offers examples of 
considerable intellectual honesty. Along with "al-Kindi's" blatant creation of a Muslim 
straw man ("al-Hasimr)( 5 ) we must consider 'Ammar's serious and probing questions in 
his Kitab al-masa'il wa-l-agwibahyv along with al-Gahiz's heavy-handed sarcasm^ 7 ) we 
must also consider al-Qasim's very objective summary of Christian soteriological 
doctrine.w Although the word "dialogue" tends to be overused by some students of 

1. See above, pp. 115-18. 

2. See above, pp. 119-36. 

3. See above, pp. 151-228. 

4. See above, pp. 238-46, 253-60. 

5. See above, p. 25, note 124. 

6. See above, pp. 182-83, 188-90. 

7. See above, pp. 243—44. 

8. See above, pp. 163-67. 



the early Arabic Christian controversial literature/ 9 ' there can be no doubt that some 
Christian-Muslim conversation, correspondence, and study reflecting a high degree of 
intellectual integrity was indeed going on within the Islamic caliphate in the eighth 
and ninth Christian centuries. 

We may judge one happy result of this conversation, correspondence, and 
study to be the considerable creativity to be encountered in some of the texts we 
have read. As a Christian student of the history of doctrine I am especially impressed 
by the creativity evident in the soteriologies fashioned by the Christian apologists. I 
have stressed the special place that I believe that Theodore Abu Qurrah's "On the 
Necessity of Redemption" ought to occupy in the history of Christian soteriological 
discourse, shedding as it does considerable and rather surprising light on 
the foundational text of Western soteriology, Anselm's Cur Deus homoS 10 ) This, 
however, is not said to the disparagement of the "divine demonstration" apology with 
its clever defences of Christ's free agency in his passion and death/ 1 ') or of the 
extraordinarily beautiful narration of the story of redemption found in "On the Triune 
God."( ] 2) 

However, despite all the evidence that we may discern in our literature for 
real interaction and learning allowing for genuine creativity of thought, our study of 
texts has not infrequently ended with the judgement that fundamental differences 
between Christians and Muslims remained unaddressed or that incompatible and 
mutually incomprehensible languages were being spoken/ 1 3 > Ironically, fundamental 
differences often appeared precisely at the point where one of the parties to the 
controversy claimed that agreement should be obvious. Thus John of Damascus, and 
after him many of the arabophone Christian apologists, thought it clear that since 
Muslims accepted the prophets, they should accept the Old Testament testimonia to 
Christ's career, including his passion and death/ 14 ) In fact, however, the Bible and the 
Qur'an authorize very different understandings both of the nature of a 
divinely-revealed scripture and of the prophetic/apostolic vocation/ 15 ) 'All al-Tabari 
thought it clear that Christians should agree to his list of divine attributes, which he 
called the sara'it AlldhS l6 '> While there was an extent to which they could do so, the 
language of the Bible and of the Qur'an led to the development of Christian and 
Islamic theological "grammars" so entirely different that meaningful Christian 
sentences (attributing divine attributes to Christ) could Islamicly only be seen as 

9. The word certainly does not belong in the title of "al-Kindi's" polemic. Cf. TARTAR, "Dialogue" 
(1977) and idem, Dialogue (1985). 

10. See above, pp. 211-23. 
11 See above, pp. 176-211. 

12. See above, pp. 152-56. 

13. See, for example, pp. 139-40, 149-50, 255-57. 

14. See above, pp. 122-25. 

15. See above, pp. 147-50. 

16. See above, p. 241. 


nonsensical, if not blasphemous as well/ 17 ' 

My own sense -- and once again I focus on the Christian materials - is that the 
arabophone Christian apologists that we have studied tended to go around those 
fundamental differences that appeared rather than through them, that they tended to 
accomodate fundamental problems rather than to make serious attempts to solve 
them. If it gradually became evident that the citation of the Old Testament 
prophecies of Christ's career was of little or no value in controversy with Muslims, 
then one could instead place one's reliance on arguments based on reason, or on the 
Muslims' scripture, the Qur'an.< 18 > If attributing divine attributes to the crucified man 
Jesus Christ was seen by Muslims as pernicious nonsense, one could attempt to explain 
away the difficulty using a variety of terminological, illustrative, or dialectical 
devices,' 19 ' or one could even incorporate this sense of pernicious nonsense into an 
argument for the divinely-given if humanly-incomprehensible truth of this paradoxical 
kind of speech/ 20 ' For a theologian, there is a sense in which this accomodation of 
problems - as brilliant as a particular strategy of accomodation might be! -- is a 
disappointment. With regard to the paradoxical Christian language about Jesus Christ, 
the Muslims had in effect issued an extremely serious metaphysical challenge: 
how may a crucified man be confessed as Lord and God? What does it mean for the 
being of God that this confession be made? The Islamic challenge could have been a 
spur to renewed reflection about God's triunity, and it could have pushed Christians 
to a much belated examination of the Hellenistic concept of Deity that came into the 
Church with the conversion of Hellenists to the Gospel, and that ever since has 
existed uneasily alongside the Bible's speech about God/ 21 ' 

Still, if these possibilities were not grasped in the eighth or ninth centuries, 
they have hardly been grasped even in the twentieth -- and certainly not in 
Christian-Muslim conversation. We must remember that the texts we have been 
studying were not written in the service of a quest for theological truth through 
intentional vulnerability in inter-religious discussion! Rather, Christians wrote 
primarily for Christians, and Muslims primarily for Muslims, in order to equip people 
for Christian-Muslim conversation in daily life, to help the immature in faith to grow, 
to give resolve to the wavering, to call home the wandering, and to reassure the 
distressed of the truth of their beliefs, no matter how painful social and military 
realities might be. For such purposes it was necessary to draw the clearest possible 
lines of demarcation between the Christian and the Islamic visions of reality/ 22 ' 
When Christian and Muslim controversialists did address one another it was not 
usually to invite one another to a discussion of the position and clarity of the line of 

17. See above, pp. 238-46. 

18. See above, pp. 125-27. 

19. See above, pp. 246-53. 

20. See above, pp. 277-83. 

21. See above, pp. 230-32. 

22. See above, pp. 266-77. 


demarcation, but rather to invite one another to a definitive crossing. 

On the Christian side, easily the most brilliant doctrinal "accomodationist" 
strategy was that which we have called the "true religion" apology.' 23 ' As we have 
noted, this apology did not contribute to the understanding of the paradoxes of the 
faith, but it did provide a framework within which these paradoxes -- such as the 
confession of a crucified man as Lord and God, and glorying in his cross - could 
exist, could serve to define the boundaries of the faith, and could even play a positive 
apologetic role. Supported by this apologetic strategy, the "word of the cross" which 
the Muslim hunafd' regarded as folly was enabled to play a major community-defining 
role for Christians within the Ddr al-lsldm in the eighth and ninth centuries. 

2. "We have no sign except the cross!" 

A good statement of the community-defining role of the cross is to be found 
in Abu Ra'itah's "Apology for the Christian Religion." At the end of his version of 
the "true religion" apology/ 24 ' we read that the religion of Moses was established by 
the miracles performed by means of his staff, which shared in the greater mystery of 
the "staff that was to come" (al-'asd l-dtiyah), the saving cross/ 25 ' Abu Ra'itah goes 
on to explain that "this is the practice (sunnah) of God . . . : to set up His religion, 
raise His standard Calam), and establish His proof over against His creation."* 26 ) 
God's standard ('a/ara)( 27 ' is the cross, which He has raised with the establishment of 
Christianity as the true religion. 

Whatever antipathy the cross might arouse in others, Christian life, for the 
arabophone apologists, is life lived under its sign. This life begins with the signing of 
the cross at baptism/ 28 ' and issues in a life-long struggle to live up to our baptismal 
covenant "so that we do not throw away what we have obtained through [Christ's] 
pains in commerce with sin."* 29 ' It is a life sustained by prayer offered with the sign 
of the cross and focussed upon the cross as an aid to concentration/ 30 ' and by the 

23. See above, pp. 277-83. 

24. GRAF, Abu Rait a (1951), 131-40 (#2-12). 

25. Ibid., 139 (#11). 

26. a21>- ^Js- to**- oljj 4^JU -Cjj olii . . . m iL- «JLf»; ibid., lines 9-10. 

27. Elsewhere we find exactly the same idea, but with various Arabic words meaning "sign" or 
"standard." For the author of "On the Triune God" the cross is Christ's and the Christians' 
simah (see below). For the author of al-Gami', the cross is the 'alamah by which Christians are 
known (Chapter 18, #8, BL or. 4950, f. 120 r /13-15). 

28. As we are reminded in al-Gami' wuguh al-iman. Chapter 23 ("On Prayer"), BL or. 4950, f. 167 v /5-8. 

29. So Abu Qurrah in "On the Necessity of Redemption," BACHA, Mayamir (1904), 90/18: JiL ">L£J 

30. See the whole of Chapter 23 of al-Gami' wuguh al-Iman, BL or. 4950, ff. 166 v -173 v . The 
importance of the sign of the cross as the distinguishing mark of Christian prayer becomes 
apparent if we recall the story of 'Abd al-Masih al-Nagrani, who as a young man fell in with 


Eucharist in which there is a "renewal of the remembrance of [Christ's] death in our 
place."' 31 ' 

The arabophone apologists are well aware that life under the sign of the cross 
is not easy. Taking Theodore Abu Qurrah as their spokesman: it is a life of 
self-denial and long-suffering love to which Christ calls with his word, "Take up your 
cross and follow me."' 32 ' In an environment in which the dominant social groups take 
"the word of the cross" to be folly, and often blasphemous folly at that, life under its 
sign means exposure to mockery and derision' 33 ' -- and even the possibility of 
martyrdom. As Abu Qurrah puts the matter at the beginning of his "Chapters on 
Prostration to the Icons," Christian life involves the emulation of the saints who 
"participated in [Christ's] pains and adorned themselves in patience with the finery of 
his cross,"' 34 ' but as his allusion later on to the martyrdom of his contemporary 
Anthony Ruwah (d. 799) makes plain,' 35 ' such speech is by no means merely 
metaphorical. Temptations to fall away from the cross-signed life are very real; 
divine help is necessary. Therefore, at the end of his "On the Necessity of 
Redemption," Abu Qurrah prays that God "pour down the Holy Spirit into our hearts, 
lest we be ashamed of [Christ's] pains which he endured for us."' 36 ' 

I conclude with one more passage from the oldest dated Christian apologetic 
treatise known to us, "On the Triune God" of Sinai ar. 154. At the very end of the 
manuscript we read:' 37 ' 

Jyl [f. 139 v ] j^T j^Ti : Jli 
£_* «.Lo— Jl ^_>...>oJI jLji dj^j iJJJjT 

. v . . 1 . „-? ! I ^■......■■>JI A.o->— ' ^«J>jj 

Muslim raiders and shared in their prayers; see GRIFFITH, "Account" (1985), 362/6. 

31. LJjj^^. -l,Jl>lZ, in Abu Ra'itah's "Apology for the Christian Religion," GRAF, Abu Raita 
(1951), 156 (#26). 

32. In, for example, Abu Qurrah's "On the True Religion," DICK, Createur (1982), 244 (Chapter 13, #8). 

33. See above, pp. 274-77, 279. 

34. *^Lo 4*l>-j* ^ ^jLi . . . ^oJl . . .; DICK, Icones (1986), 88 (Chapter 1, #2). 

35. Ibid., 173 (Chapter 16, #15-16.) 

36. I^U ^'i 4j>l>-ji jj. Lir >^_J !>LJ i^oill £jy LLj^ii ^ JjLL ji J't-J; BACH A, May amir (1904), 

37. Sinai ar. 154, f. 139 rv . 


(1) MS .U,Y (2) MS (3) MS t >-— (4) MS sic. 


1 Then [Christ] said: "Truly, truly I say to you: 

as the lightning is in heaven and is seen from the east to the west, 
so will be the coming of Christ in heaven with his angels" 
[Matthew 24:27, cf. 16:27]. 

2 And you shall see a sign (slmah) before him [Matthew 24:30], 

like the lightning which is in heaven. 

3 The sole sign of Christ is his cross, 

by which he overthrew the Devil and destroyed his authority; 
and he has made it for his friends a sign 
by which they are known by all the people. 

4 By my life, all the people of the folk of the earth have learned 

that the Christians have no sign except the cross, 
by which we are known in the earth, 

and by Christ on the Day of Resurrection, 

when he comes to judge the living and the dead according to their works. 

The expectation that Christ would be preceded by his cross at his parousia is in 
conformity with very ancient exegesis of Matthew 24:30 ("then will appear the sign of 
the Son of man in heaven . . . and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds 
of heaven")/ 38 ) It is of interest here as a response to the passages from the Islamic 
hadith literature with which I began my narration of the Christian-Muslim 
controversy over the cross/ 39 ) If Muslims looked for 'Isa b. Maryam to return and 
"break the cross," Christians had an entirely different expectation: the cross would not 
be the "casualty" of Christ's return, but its herald. And if, according to the Muslims, 
their prophet Muhammad would not countenance the sign of the cross even as a 
pattern in fabric, Christians responded: "[We] have no sign except the cross by which 
we are known in the earth, and by Christ on the Day of Resurrection!" 

38. See DANIELOU, Theologie (1958), 290-94. We encountered this expectation earlier when we 
examined "The Apocalypse of (pseudo-) Methodius," above, p. 81. We find a passage similar to 
this one from "On the Triune God" in Abu Ra'itah's "The Apology for the Christian Religion," 
GRAF, Abu Raita (1951), 154 (#24). 

39. See above, pp. 65-66. 

Appendix I: 


The following hadith report of Wahb b. Munabbih, discussed at some length 
above (pp. 212-216), is reproduced here for the reader's convenience from TABARI, 
Tafslr (1955-), IX, 368-70 (#10780), with the addition of numbered paragraphs and 
some punctuation and taskll. I omit the full text of the isndd, which runs: 
al-Mutanna / Ishaq / Isma'Il b. 'Abd al-Karim / 'Abd al-Samad b. Ma'qil / Wahb. For 
a list of readily accessible translations in European languages, see above, p. 212, 
note 47. 

^ jli tiLLII :jL3i cl*Ul» pfJ ^jL^ai >>JI Lpuj .<uLc j-ij tOj-JI 

.pf*JL>«j ^aLLp cJJlII ja <lJi I yu*z* T \ LJLi d.i>-L>- *^Jl 

.oLjLj ; ^_j_LjI ^uw«jj i dJLu - J* yj) r*-4^*^i' J-~-V; ' i^LJaJI I j> LJL* 2 

Lit lL» 4JLJJI tt-Ji ^ip *Vh) : jUi yfcjL&j dJi I ^-Jj-Uii 

(^Ip ^£l*-1>- tJJLJJI <£^h.l^j L» L»tl : Jli tiiJi ISl 4^^^ tojyli t!<u* 

^ r3j ">L» ^jl ^-^j^i -Sj— 'I ^ l t5-^ fi-^J*^' C.L..>g- j ^UJaJI 

^>-Jj jl »UjJI ^ J_>JL$i>«J> -ojI j j^JLii iL$JLp jScLjclJ ^yJI ^y^L?- L»lj» 3 
Ijw^Wt ...j ^J ^ji*- p jjJI pftJL>-l i IjJL^i>«_; jl I j l _j *LpjlLI n^i'ii I j ; LJLi (i • L jJL>-i 
8 ? L|_J ^ 3jl>-Ij 5JLJ ^ L» jl>t^-)) :Jjijj t J-* J r e -* -*L*j 

L«j tt aJLJJI') L»_j t j^—JI jiSCj lli" jlU ! LJ L» t^jJLi L« *bl j» : I ^Jli 

(d^jLjj^ Lu-jj J~>- 21 *Uo ju^i 

4-j ^^0-; IJla y>Ji |»*>lCj Jjc>-j «.*jlAJI <J j-^j jJL> e-jfcJLi) : jLii 4 
^ J j tOt ja *J1j*>Lj iL-JI : J^i j jJt£-J 4,J>«JI)) : Jli *j .<u»iJ 

. I y jixj I y>: j>*i «\^^ j}S\Jj iij^ ^\jJu ^J^\ 



jj* IJla » : I jJUii t j-jjI^pJI -b>-l ij_>*-»-i I^JL>-li -4.11a" i^j-JI C-Jl^j 5 
+a .iUJii' JL>t>tj cjj^T «JL>-i ^ .ojZ'jzj lI'U^-Lxaj Ljl L»» :Jli_j Ji>t>«j «!<ul>w»i 

^oJLta jl J jjl«j>*J L»» :Jlii Jj^-JI J l j-jjl_pJI jl>-i Jl t 1 Uii 6 

C.'il ») !<J j jJjJLj 4jj.ijJL I jLcsO .^^^tJlj o t4jj» I yu li ajJL>-li 7 

oi jl» :Jlii (diLipi) : Uli «?jL£j ^!>U)) :Jlii ^-^s- U-»*L>J jJUa-JI vl->>- 
J ^iL jl j-jjI _pJI I jiU !*-fJ aII *^ IIa jij t ^ H\ <J>) t4ji ill 

((.IJlS'j liS^ jlC 

Jl— j >j 4-^ Jij jli' ^JLII JUtij t j-ip JL»-t jl£»»JI dUi Jl o_^iJLi 9 
t-jbJ t^l3 jJ» : Jlii (( . <*Ju J^ij J-'JL^-li t L* Jp ^JU 4jl )) : I jjlii «ul>w>l cp 
ovi t IjiikjLi .^sj»^» : Jlii t-^jZ^x-i *J J^j ^ Q^ - f-fr-^ ^ «.<uip 4ttl 

((.p^pJLJj ^-fcj JLL.-1j >f »J ajJu i^iJL»kj rv->— > jl— jl J-T -r 

Appendix II: 


Critical Edition 

The edition that follows of "The Refutation of the One Who Denies the 
Crucifixion" is established on the basis of: 

V = Vatican ar. 107 (15th a), ff. 106 r -107 v , and 
S = Sbath (Aleppo) 1129 (17th a), ff. l*V-3* v .(n 

For the second part of the "Refutation" (#8-16), a helpful witness to the text is 
the recension in sag' of the Kitab al-magdal (= M), which I have established on the 
basis of the copies in Paris ar. 190 (13th a), pp. 295-99, and Vatican ar. 108 (14th a), 
ff. 121 r -122 v , as well as the independent extracts in Vatican ar. 141 (16th a), ff. 117 r -119 r 
and Vatican ar. 570 (1582 A.D.), ff. 32 v -41 r . 

The titles are mine, as is indicated by their inclusion in square brackets. 


The leaves of this manuscript are not numbered. For the time being, I shall call the first leaf 
upon which this text appears f. 1*. 



[4Aij J-J oli y X^Lt d\ yUl J i] 

JLSi (7)r(6, jT yUl Jy" (5 > jlT w jii .l^Jl y 

tJiiJUL J*i J*i pj-u: [S: f. 2* r ] UJU I ^y jy^ :lyHi jo 2 

L This title is adapted from those given in the MSS: 

V: O jJUaJI -X>t>- ^y lJ Jlp i jJI j^Jll> v-jLj jJI J-*>- y*l -oil 

S: ». ■ 1 II -*->^>- <y ^-*l yr- 

2. V: jll yUl. 

3. S: OlijJL. 

4. S: ili. 

5. S: + JLi. 

6. V: jll yUl. 

7. S: pfil ypl. 


<L*ij J-J jj* CJ" 1 JUL* .«*_$JLp c_-J jJI lUt CjjT (^yi^i >J Udi» y 


l«o >J~tf> I* j o jU U»] 

L V: 

2. S: OL. JL**JI JJi JL» (St CjlI 

3. S:LJip ^^e- 0}>- 

4. V: LBjI. 

5. S: Jl. 

6. V: oil yUl. 

7. S: Uj. 

8. S: ojlp. 

9. S: Stf 

10. V: + iU3l. 

11. S: JjjJi^j J-^> 


L fclp L^iiJI c — S**j\j i ^Jl JJaj! 

a jl ^jLc*JI Ajl t <j jj--L»L>tj jl j_^>*j 15JUI ^li-H ^yjt-Jlj 4 
JLkjlj 4jll1 Jjvj <tp-Ljl ^LJI ^\ £~~»Jl> Uj pjhJUai jl^ L* 
tJu^S-Jlj C-^JI ^ ++*\*S\ m j*) ai~> 3ji V il [V: f. 106 v ] ias*^ 

Jkj C6) tJ JL*3, J l5) jiiJI f- lilj tcJ^jA (4) *U~JLl 

0 jJu» j [S: f . 2* v ] t (( 0 L»j i) 0 ^isi ^-fjl^i 6 . Lj jJt ^ «u Li ^Jlp _j 1 ^j^/I 

L V: Y,. 

2. S: + ^ (added above the line). 

3. S: OjI-lp. 

4. S: U-JI. 

5. S: j>JI. 

6. S: + 47 o b» I SL^-JI i 


[«. . . til j/\ <uit J---, 1 ^JLi V»] 

J I j}J ^JUI (5) c jl M,r JyU jily IJU/ 7 

!_^J j*JI J>-^ Jaill jl ^ -ui" 1 (8) .ill ^ vJLi -ON c-jj* (7) U, 

L S: 

2. S: >J. 

3. S: + il j-al>- Uj I jil>- tli* yC»J I jjiJL>- I j^Jb-i) : y-liJI J Li . jlaj 

5. V: jll yUl. 

6. V: ojJUI. 

7. V: V> 

8. S: + i^l ifijjjJLiAJ tpjj jijj j j5la;j N ijT^iJI ^ Jli U^" 

4_tal>t_J!j .«Lj — i: JaUo ^^^ij [IJlT] : y^-T £-*»y ^ 

«.jjJL*L>JI <. I ^J>li 

9. S: j>JI [IJLf] J*I [IJLSl ^jZl t \j)J l.j Jsi ^ 


/\ till J\ > T ,..,;j jl Ul UjjI (2) jp jl^w. <J ^^J 4,,,t,7H (1) iSvi 8 

IV^-JI Jlio i *li dii Jjbl 

jp" 1 J (4) ti_^» Cr ^JI Jit. >j+AJ Cfi, ill 0[ (3) JJ ovi [V: f. 107r] 9 

.jLiJL wj^UJI ^ V (7) (! JUJ) ^ iJji*JI ^L, IJifri (5)r cJiUI 
UJ [S: f. 3* r ] till o\ 10 »«» ill Li' i£3j}\ JJ Sli^JL «L,Ii£Mj 

L M. V: Vlj. S: 

2. VM. S: t >.. 

3. SV. M: JlS. 

4. M. VS: ti^. 

5. V. S: omit. 

6. M. VS: jjLZ. 

7. V. S: omit. 

8. M. VS: J^kll. 

9. VM. S: o\sf. 
10. S. V: L~,. 


ajji li Ju tjkJI J\ *a>-U- ^ 4JUJ (2) jJdJ ^ J\ U, ^JI J-jl 

j^j j^ji ^>ji » 2 u* av >£y,% Jji~ Lw •lop^fi 

L VM. S: omit. 

2. VS. M: + 3-LiP. 

3. VS. M: <u>-i djj+j. 

4. VS. M: Jtf. 

5. S. V: 4*1 M: jL. 

6. VM. S: a_*J. 

7. VS. M: *4-Ji. 

8. V. S: incompletely written: ojJ LjI 
M: oLjL^jI j azXa^uj Ju. 

9. V. SM: omit. 

10. M. V: * U-VU S: ^Uj^VL. 

11. SM. V: lOfJI. 

12. SM. V: I^J*. 

13. V. S: opLJ,. 

14. V. S: op Li I. 


%J>J» oj-w j~a->_ JtuS i U>- C~>Jj ^yj } O y*j ^y*) (2) >^ji ? yi & jW- yLH 

t < 7 £.u, (6) iikp^ *L^I (5) jl:T ^ J^ji ^ ?<«T^a2 *j»".?ILj (3, ^Li^ 
? (9) J^JL JJLl, JuS* ^-LU oTi y> ^ ? w j!>UiJL) L_- >jj 

^ II LJ uS\±a t^Ji i>fr JJ (lu jL jlU..7,ll Si (,0, JJ Sij 13 

JUJI J a^J^ ^-.■■■■■..11 JLi. Jj fjU-^l J' J* OlU.All iUi! 
oUwst vJuy^ ajcl* ^JUI Uj ? U3, *pLjtj «JL**&; (,2) JJlJ iCJ^JIj 

5l [V: f. 107v] 

L SM. V: jll j!S\. 

2. V. SM: Jd,. 

3. SM. V: ">UL.. 

4. VM. S: 

5. M. VS: ^1. 

6. VM. S: Ui*y>. 

7. VM. S: IJi£a jI IJ^a> 

8. M. VS: J*kJU. 

9. V. S: J^Jb. M: J^JI ^i. 

10. V. SM: JU. 

11. VS. M: j^. 

12. SM. V: JikJ. 

13. VS. M: -LPLit. 


a~Ju ™ r j* Lit" 1 JJj ciiJi U) ouT, 14 ^oUa^l oVL^ <y Jl i\Ji 

4i*LJ J^JL>cJ «-L~>- juM ^ (4)r(3, c J^jl >>«JI JL^-l" 1 tU^lJ i^JtLiS aJbo^ caJU^j 

[?*jLl» uJUu j»l yJI 1 >»>» i >$JI jL*^ Ja] 

Ol JU«-li t4li» v»JUaj pi yJI ^^JLp ly^ :> ^_JI jL»-l jl (5) J-i jlj 15 
CJj .JuS'j !<dbi (8) jL^I -bo C- (7) pl _^JI (6, aT j lil c-LPlJl ^ 

UJU^. ^ U JL* jiL J dJSj ?JU-Jlj (n) 0 L^,NI U0, Jj>l [S: f. 3* v ] 

1. V. S: + jyC. 

2. V. S: appears to be ^^J. 

3. V: j^jl_pJI. 

4. V. S: omit. 

5. VS. M: Jli. 

6. S. V: al jt. (M: ajl j, following the subject.) 

7. V. S: omit. 

8. VM. S: jl^l. 

9. SM. V: 

10. V. S: Jj>J. M: Jj^. 

11. M. VS: oLJ^M. 


p. Jlj (2,r .v^ J* ^ JJ ja ol^Jlj 16 

t J*iJL ly^ipl j^jJIj (4)r(3 U.-u Hi Li*" 1 t JJ w: ^ o 

(,o) i9)r .4j j jju, 1 »ouiy 

L V. S: Sjl*J, 

2. V. S: omit. 

3. V: Lju 

4. V. S: omit. 

5. SM. V: omit. 

6. VS. M: Lw. 

7. V. S: <u-»ij. 

8. V. S: DUiVI. 

9. V. S: o*,jU». 

10. V concludes: Tju^- tJUl uib ^LiJI «0Jj tiJJi J^T.